Tom Wood says Saints must do everything they can to get referee Wayne Barnes onside in Saturday’s mouthwatering east midlands derby.
Barnes will take charge of the Franklin’s Gardens fixture, his first Northampton-Leicester game since dismissing Dylan Hartley in the Aviva Premiership final last May.
Jim Mallinder’s men went on to lose the Twickenham showpiece 37-17 and Hartley was later found guilty of verbally abusing the referee, being hit with an 11-week ban and missing the Lions tour.
It was the latest in a long line of controversial incidents in recent Saints games against Leicester, with Barnes often the man in the middle.
And Wood, who took over captaincy duties in the final after Hartley was dismissed, knows he and his team-mates must not get in the Gloucestershire official’s bad books this weekend.
“It was difficult circumstances on the day and I’ve always got on well with Wayne,” said the England flanker. “He’s one of the top referees in world rugby and rightly so.
“We’ve got to get him onside, show him the right shapes at scrum time, the right body positions at the breakdown, show that we’re trying to be positive and do things well and make his job as easy as possible.
“Hopefully we’ll be rewarded on the back of that.”
Barnes has only refereed one Northampton game this season, issuing four cards, including one red - to visiting captain Jonathan Thomas - in the win against Worcester at the Gardens last month.
Hartley was on England duty at the time, meaning this will be the first time the player and referee have encountered each other in a game situation since the final.
But Wood said: “I don’t know that’s really an issue. Dylan’s always been a top quality player and a top quality leader here at Saints. It would be nice to get a big one on the big stage against the team that have been our undoing a couple of times. It will be big for him, but every game’s big in a Northampton shirt.
“In front of a full house it will be a big occasion so we’re looking forward to it for other reasons on its own individual merit, never mind what’s been and gone in the past.”