JIM MALLINDER says Saints have the ‘perfect opportunity’ to start their Heineken Cup campaign with a bang after being handed a home game against Glasgow first up.
The Scottish side will travel to Franklin’s Gardens for a 12.45pm kick off on Sunday, October 14 and Mallinder’s men will be expected to open with a win.
Saints paid the price for a poor start in the pool stages last season as early defeats to Munster and Scarlets effectively ended their chances of progression.
Mallinder is desperate to avoid a smiliar scenario this time round and he believes starting at the Gardens will be a big boost against gritty Glasgow.
“We saw last year how important it is to make a good start in the Heineken Cup,” he said. “Playing our opening game at home gives us the perfect opportunity to do just that this time around.
“We are however fully aware of the dangers posed by Glasgow and certainly won’t be underestimating the threat they will pose.”
Just five days after the Glasgow game at the Gardens, Saints go to the Stade Pierre Antoine to face Castres on Friday, October 19 (ko 7pm).
Then, following a five-week break for domestic and international rugby comes the huge double-header with Ulster in December.
Last year’s finalists will first come to town under the lights at the Gardens, that contest an 8pm kick off on Friday, December 7.
That is followed straight away by a trip across the Irish Sea and to Ravenhill for another evening kick off in Round 4, the return fixture with Ulster scheduled for Saturday, December 15 at 6pm.
Pool 4 will come to its conclusion the following month when the Saints first host Castres on the weekend of January 11-13 before their final away game at Glasgow on the weekend of January 18th-20th, 2013.
Mallinder added: “We also know how difficult a place Castres is to travel to the week after and in such a challenging pool, points gained on the road could be vital.
“Then, victory at home in the back-to-back ties with Ulster will be crucial to set the tone for the following week.
“They are another side we know well and after our meeting in 2011, not to mention their run to the final last season, we are fully aware that Ulster are one of the most dangerous sides in the competition.
“That said, there is plenty of rugby to be played even before we start our Heineken Cup campaign. We are keen and fully focused on starting our Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign in the best possible fashion – something that will hopefully give us the momentum we need to challenge in Europe come October 14.”