Tom Vickers’ Harlequins v Saints preview: Mallinder’s men in great shape for Stoop test

BIG-GAME PLAYER - Saints winger George North

BIG-GAME PLAYER - Saints winger George North

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It’s fair to say Harlequins have had the edge on Saints in recent seasons – but that may just change at The Stoop tonight (Fri).

Jim Mallinder’s men go into the game on an upward curve, carried by the wave of optimism brought about by a stirring summer at Franklin’s Gardens.

New signings, a blemish-free pre-season campaign and an opening-day annihilation of Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership has left the club in high spirits.

Add to that a wealth of options on the bench and few injury issues, and Saints are in the best shape they’ve been in since they last won at The Stoop in September, 2011.

As for Harlequins, they remain a strong side and, expecting a real fight, they will be massively motivated for Friday’s game.

But their win against Wasps last Saturday was somewhat edgy and had Andy Goode’s late effort not hit the upright, Conor O’Shea’s men would have started the new season with a defeat.

Saints should fancy their chances of improving a record that has seen them win just one of their past seven meetings with the Twickenham-based side.

This is the kind of game George North, Alex Corbisiero and Kahn Fotuali’i were brought in to help Northampton win.

Big-name players for the big-game environment.

Those men can give Saints the extra edge they need and provide the added spark needed to turn the fine margins in their club’s favour.

Attack coach Alex King this week declared himself pleased with how his new charges have taken to his approach to the game.

Saints shone against the Chiefs, running in five tries, and a game against one of their rivals for a top four spot will be an added test this week.

With a game at Gloucester to follow and a trip to Leicester Tigers not too far away, it’s a pretty tricky start to the season.

But Saints have shown great ability on the road in recent years, especially last season when they claimed notable wins at the likes of Wasps and Saracens towards the end of the campaign.

And following the summer of super signings, they will expect to continue those away-day heroics and end that barren run at Harlequins.