Ken Pisi feels Saints can take plenty of positives from their first friendly - despite falling to a 31-14 defeat against Castres in Camares.
Tom Wood and Teimana Harrison scored for Jim Mallinder’s men as they got their pre-season campaign under way at a sun-soaked setting on Saturday evening.
Castres are just one week away from the start of their Top 14 campaign, meaning they are well ahead of Saints in terms of preparations for the new season.
And that showed as Saints, who fielded a separate side in each half, were beaten in the Vaquerin Challenge match.
But Samoan wing Pisi said: “This was our first game and Castres are starting their own tournament next week.
“We can take a lot of positives out of this, but there’s a lot to work on as well before the Rotherham and Cornish Pirates games.”
Saints spent seven days in France, pushing themselves to the limit while also enjoying some down time.
They have now returned home and will face Cornish Pirates and Rotherham in a double-header at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
And Pisi, who played in the opening 40 minutes in the south of France, said: “It’s been hot, but good as well.
“The boys have bonded well. We’ve worked hard but had an activity day rock climbing as well.
“We’ve come closer as a group and hopefully we can build on that now we’re home.
“There are a few new players here and we’ve needed to get them knowing what Saints is like as a team and what we do off the field. It’s like a family.
“The training sessions have been tough, and maybe had a bit of a toll on the legs in the game. They felt a bit heavy, but that’s what pre-season is for.”
Pisi missed pre-season 12 months ago as he was representing Samoa in the Rugby World Cup.
But he has had the benefit of being around from the start this year, and the 27-year-old believes he will reap the rewards of that extra preparation time.
“Pre-season has been successful,” Pisi said. “We’ve seen some of the boys transformed, including myself.
“Last year was difficult to come back into the Saints after the World Cup, it took a bit of time to adjust. But being here from day one has helped me massively.”