SAINTS boss Jim Mallinder admits his side face a ‘challenging’ start to the new season - after they were handed an opening-day trip to Gloucester.
Mallinder’s men start open their campaign with a trip to Kingsholm in a reverse of last season’s opening fixture before welcoming Exeter Chiefs to Franklin’s Gardens the following weekend.
Games against Bath, Worcester, London Wasps and London Irish make up the remainder of the Saints’ opening half-dozen Aviva Premiership fixtures.
Three of the side’s first six opponents are going into the new campaign under new management, and Mallinder believes that will provide new challenges for his team.
“It is a challenging start to the season for us,” he said. “Gloucester, Bath and London Irish all have new coaching teams in place and we won’t know until the start of the season whether there will be any changes to the way those teams play.
“Meanwhile both Worcester and Wasps have brought in new players and improved their squads, and Exeter have established themselves as one of the top clubs in the Premiership.
“The following four weeks – with two Heineken Cup games followed by Saracens and Leicester in successive Premiership rounds – will also pose us plenty of challenges.
“However the first weekend in September is a long way off and at the moment we are concentrating on getting the most out of pre-season.”