Mallinder steels Saints for Glasgow adventure

A lot has happened since Saints last visited Glasgow’s Scotstoun Stadium.

By Tom Vickers
Saturday, 21st November 2015, 6:00 am
Niko Matawalu was Glasgow's star man when they beat Saints in 2013, but he has since moved to Bath
Niko Matawalu was Glasgow's star man when they beat Saints in 2013, but he has since moved to Bath

Back in January 2013, Jim Mallinder’s men battled through the snow to make it to Scotland’s largest city.

Needing a big win to stand a chance of progressing to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, Saints were undone, with their ambition ultimately costing them the game.

Glasgow, a flashy side, containing the likes of Niko Matawalu, who stole the show, and Sean Maitland, secured a last-gasp 27-20 success thanks to Peter Horne’s dazzling try.

Saints had been pushing for a bonus-point success against a team they were expected to beat, but, eventually, the English outfit came up just short, seeing their hopes go up in smoke.

But since then, both teams have transformed.

Glasgow are no longer underdogs whose hopes are expected to end in the formative stages of the pool.

This year, Gregor Townsend’s team, who won the Pro12 last season, have genuine belief that they can make the last eight of Europe’s premier club rugby competition for the first time.

As for Saints, they also harbour lofty ambitions, with a desperation to take the next step under Mallinder, who steered his side to their first Aviva Premiership title in 2014.

“It’s two good sides,” said Mallinder ahead of this weekend’s clash.

“Glasgow are really pushing ahead.

“They won their league, which shows what a good side they are, and I’m sure they want to make their mark in Europe, as we do.”

And reflecting on the last time Saints visited Scotstoun, Mallinder said: “Even though we lost the game, we enjoyed the weekend.

“It’s a very good stadium to play at, as is any stadium you play at that’s full.

“It’s a passionate place, you can feel that, and we enjoy it. It’s much better than playing at a stadium that is half or a quarter full.

“We know what a quality side they are and they’ve improved since we played up there.

“They’ve got a fantastic mix of local players, a lot of those being international players playing for Scotland, and some very good overseas additions.

“Under Townsend they play a very adventurous game of rugby and we’ll see on Saturday that they will look to move the ball all over the field, offload as much as they can.

“Their linespeed is very quick to put you under pressure in defence.”

With no Italian minnows present in Pool 3, every point will be crucial in the bid to qualify for the quarter-finals.

And Mallinder said: “We’re wary of them, but we can’t worry too much about them.

“We’ve got to make sure our backline fires this week and we’ll be going there in a very positive mindset of wanting to play attacking rugby.

“When you play at home, home games are must win, then you need to pick up as many away points as you can.

“It will be a close pool so if we can get a win on Saturday we’ll be in a good place.”