Jim Mallinder has warned Saints not to expect the sort of easy ride they enjoyed against Wasps last season when the two sides meet tonight (Fri, ko 7.45pm).
Saints slayed the Wycombe-based outfit in both league fixtures during the previous campaign, beating them 24-13 at Adams Park, then easing to a 32-15 win at Franklin’s Gardens.
Wasps were one of the Premiership’s strugglers last season and finished the campaign just one point above relegated Newcastle Falcons.
But boss Dai Young has rebuilt his squad this summer, with experienced campaigners such as England’s James Haskell and Tom Palmer added.
And with added security off the pitch following a successful takeover by a consortium led by former player Ken Moss, the club are now a different proposition.
“We’ve had a lot of success in the last year or so against Wasps but the team has improved, they’ve got a lot of experience in there,” said Saints boss Mallinder.
“The back row is a very solid unit, whoever they play at eight. They’ve got two really good players there and in the second row they’ve got two experienced locks so they’ve got that experience back in the pack and that will benefit them.”
Though they currently sit eighth with just one win in four games, it could all be so different for Wasps had they converted a 27-point lead against Harlequins into victory.
Young’s men eventually lost 42-40 at Twickenham on the opening day of the season, but their attacking threat had been illustrated and Mallinder knows they have a potent backline.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Wasps have been close in all their games.
“They were very close in the first game and had a really good chance of winning that, but they’ve most recently got that win (against London Irish) that they’re after and it’s going to be a difficult game.
“They play a fairly loose game. I think they’ve got that type of character.
“They’ve got Joe Simpson at nine, who is a fantastic runner. The back three with Elliot Daly at 13 make them a very exciting attacking team and that’s the way they like to play so they concede a few tries but they certainly go out there and score a lot.”