Mallinder desperate to steer Saints to title again

At the start of last season, some doubted how Saints would handle the pressure of being champions.

Jim Mallinder has insisted Saints are happy with their options at No.8 (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Jim Mallinder has insisted Saints are happy with their options at No.8 (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

They were there to be shot at, said people inside and outside of the camp.

Everyone would be coming for them, it was claimed.

But Jim Mallinder’s men brushed off that pressure and started the season with a bang, winning five of their first six Aviva Premiership matches.

They showed they could handle being top dogs and ensured they weren’t bitten too often.

But how does it feel to now have that champions tag lifted from their shoulders?

Will the pressure they were supposed to feel last season have shifted on to new title-holders Saracens?

Or do Saints still feel like they will be under severe enemy fire because they topped the regular-season standings for the first time during the previous campaign?

“I don’t think our mentality changes,” said director of rugby Mallinder, who takes his team to Worcester Warriors for their opening league fixture on Friday.

“We understand the demands the Premiership puts on you.

“We’ve got to be at our best every week, whether that’s against the side who have just come up or against the top sides - there’s no easy games.

“We’ve got to make sure that mentally as well as physically we’re always in good shape every single week.”

Saints reached the knock-out stages of all three competitions last season, losing in the Champions Cup quarter-final at Clermont Auvergne, in the LV= Cup semi-final at Saracens and at home to the same team in the Premiership play-off semi-final.

That triple disappointment should serve as the perfect motivation this season.

And Mallinder said: “We are desperate to get our title back.

“We were really disappointed to finish last season the way we did.

“It’s a massive, massive thing for us this year - to try to regain that Premiership.

“The club is improving as a whole, looking at the stadium and everything that’s going on.

“We’re progressing on the field as well. We’ve made good signings, got a strong squad and we’re always trying to make it stronger.

“We’re in a good position, but we know it’s going to be tough, because with the salary cap as it is, there are some very, very equal teams in terms of squad sizes and depth so you’re starting from quite a level playing field.

“We think we’re in a good place and we’re looking forward to trying to reclaim that Premiership.”

Saints won all three of their pre-season games, winning at Saracens and Wasps, and at home to Worcester.

And Mallinder said: “We’ve enjoyed our pre-season games. They’ve gone well, gone to plan and we’ve given lots of people lots of game time. Now we’re ready for