Jim Mallinder has stressed that Saints don’t see the LV= Cup as an academy competition.
The director of rugby has named a youthful side for the clash with Harlequins on Saturday, but insists he still places value on the tournament.
Saints host Quins on Saturday before a trip to Newport-Gwent Dragons and conclude the group stage with a home game against Gloucester and a trip to Exeter.
Mallinder steered his side to LV= Cup glory in 2010, beating the Cherry and Whites in the showpiece, while they lost out in last season’s final, to local rivals Leicester Tigers.
They will start their renewed quest for glory this weekend and Mallinder is looking forward to the curtain-raiser against Premiership champions Quins.
“We don’t see the LV as an academy competition,” said the Saints boss, who has handed a start to academy centre Tom Stephenson.
“We see it as a chance to play some of our senior squad who have not been starting, not been getting much game time alongside some of those talented youngsters who have been shining on a Monday night for the Wanderers, and we think of the LV as a perfect opportunity to put those two together.”
Saints will hope to use the game to bring back the feelgood factor for Franklin’s Gardens after suffering four defeats in their last five games.
And Mallinder is relishing the chance to check out some of the club’s prodigious talents, who he is hoping will push for a place in the Premiership and Heineken Cup side sooner rather than later.
“As we said right from the start, there’s a lot of good teams and there are no easy games,” he said, reflecting on the mixed start to this campaign.
“We had a brilliant start. To win the first five was great. A couple of those could have gone either way but we came out on the winning side.
“The last three games have been tough. When you play Leicester and Saracens, they’re top teams in Europe and it’s always going to be difficult if you’re not playing at the top of your game.
“We know where we’ve got to be and where we want to be and the Harlequins game is an opportunity for us to try out some players who haven’t had much game time and couple those with some of the younger lads who have been really playing well on a Monday night for the Wanderers. It’s exciting.
“We’re looking forward to the LV= competition.”