Saints handed tough start to Premiership season

TRY GUY - Luther Burrell celebrates scoring against Exeter at Franklin's Gardens last season  (picture by Linda Dawson)

TRY GUY - Luther Burrell celebrates scoring against Exeter at Franklin's Gardens last season (picture by Linda Dawson)

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Saints have been handed a testing start to the new Aviva Premiership season.

Jim Mallinder’s men kick-off with a home game against Exeter Chiefs on September 7 before back-to-back away games, against Harlequins (September 13) and Gloucester (September 21).

Leicester Tigers and Saracens also lie in wait before the end of October, with the trip to Tigers (October 5) coming during Richard Cockerill’s nine-game ban.

The return game against Leicester is in the final week of March, as it was last season, while the visit to Allianz Park is on April 12.

The Christmas/New Year period sees a trip to Wasps (December 21) and back-to-back home games, against Bath on December 28 and Harlequins on January 4.

Saints will finish the campaign with a home game against Wasps on May 10.

BT Sport will be showing six of Northampton’s opening seven games live, with only the clash with Exeter not being televised.

On his side’s start to the season, Saints boss Mallinder said: “As we well know there are no easy games in the Aviva Premiership, though to play the five other top six sides from last season inside the first six fixtures is an especially tough start.

“Exeter are now established as genuine play-off contenders and will pose a sizeable threat first up, but we are keen make the best start possible at home and hopefully build some important momentum in front of a full Franklin’s Gardens.

“The run in also looks particularly challenging, especially considering how close top four qualification was last season, but that is a long way off yet and we’ll be fully focused on starting well.

“That is something we saw last season after winning our first five on the bounce and while it is a big ask to repeat that run, if we get our pre-season preparations right we have every confidence of making a positive start to 2013/14.”

Saints’ Premiership fixtures 2013/14

Saturday, September 7: Exeter Chiefs (h), 3pm

Friday, September 13: Harlequins (a), 7.45pm

Saturday, September 21: Gloucester (a), 3.15pm

Friday, September 27: Sale Sharks (h), 7.45pm

Saturday, October 5: Leicester Tigers (a), 3.15pm

Saturday, October 26: Saracens (h), 3.15pm

Sunday, November 3: London Irish (a), 2pm

Saturday, November 23: Newcastle Falcons (h)

Saturday, November 30: Worcester Warriors (a)

Saturday, December 21: London Wasps (a)

Saturday, December 28: Bath (h)

Saturday, January 4: Harlequins (h)

Saturday, February 8: Exeter Chiefs (a)

Saturday, February 15: Worcester Warriors (h)

Saturday, February 22: Newcastle Falcons (a)

Saturday, March 1: Gloucester (h)

Saturday, March 22: Sale Sharks (a)

Saturday, March 29: Leicester (h)

Saturday, April 12: Saracens (a)

Saturday, April 19: London Irish (h)

Saturday, May 3: Bath (a)

Saturday, May 10: London Wasps (h)