Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder admits he has faced his most difficult team selection of the season ahead of Saturday’s trip to Leicester.
With top spot in the Aviva Premiership already confirmed, Mallinder has had to decide whether to rest players for the game at Welford Road.
He knows that avoiding unneccssary injuries and keeping players fresh for the following Saturday’s Premiership play-off semi-final at Franklin’s Gardens is key.
But Mallinder also wants to maintain his team’s momentum ahead of what he hopes will be two more games on the way to claiming a second successive league title.
“It is (one of the most difficult team selections of the season) because I’d be stupid if I said we weren’t looking at the following week,” said the Saints boss. “That’s natural.
“We’ve got a home semi-final and it’s a game we’ve got to win, it’s a one-off, massive game.
“But we’re all about being competitive, we want momentum and we want to perform, so we’ve got to make sure we pick a team who are capable of doing all that.”
Mallinder has already stated that the fact it is an east midlands derby has not entered his thinking when choosing his 23-man squad for Saturday’s game.
And he stressed the chance to knock Leicester out of the top four - a scenario that would unfold should Saints win and Exeter and Saracens prevail in their games - has also not been in his mind.
“We don’t really think about that (knocking Leicester out of the top four),” Mallinder said. “It’s all about momentum.
“You take the opposition out of the reckoning and we’re not worried about what’s happening underneath us.
“It’s all about us, getting that momentum and then looking forward to playing whoever we play the following week.”
But Mallinder would dearly love Saints to end their wait for a win at Welford Road, which stretches back to February, 2007.
“We got a draw there last season, but it would be very nice to win up there,” he said.
“If you want end-of-season momentum there’d be no better feeling than going up there and winning.”