Tom May is expecting to face the might of the French ego against Castres in tonight’s (Fri) Heineken Cup clash in Toulouse, but the Saints centre claims a pitched battle could be coming at the perfect time for his club.
Northampton came flying out of the traps, winning their first five Aviva Premiership matches, before shipping 39 points to lose to London Irish although they bounced back to turn around a 15-0 deficit to beat Glasgow Warriors in the Heineken Cup last weekend.
Top 14 side Castres will be licking their wounds following a 41-17 defeat to Ulster before the Saints jump straight back into Aviva Premiership action with tough ties against Leicester Tigers and Saracens.
May, who is on the replacements’ bench for tonight’s game, knows better than most the threat posed by the French power game after spending two seasons with Toulon before returning to England last season.
And with a potentially defining part of their domestic season up ahead, the 33-year-old is unconcerned with any European hangover and expects the match to toughen up the Saints.
“While both leagues are very physical I think French rugby can be a massive battle of egos – we try to look to create space whereas the French look at you and say ‘I can run you over,’” he said.
“Most of the lads know what to expect but it still helps us to always learn about different ways of playing which we can take and apply.
“I know it is going to be an intensively physical game but I think that will be good for us and perhaps we might get that bit more battle hardened for the rest of the season.
“Losing like we did to Irish was not where we want to be and we were caught cold a bit – but it was important we came back to win against Glasgow like we did despite not starting very well.
“It is going to be tough against Leicester and Saracens but we are taking on this game first and hopefully build some momentum.”
May is yet to start an Aviva Premiership tie this year as Dominic Waldouck and Luther Burrell formed a strong central partnership in Northampton’s early run of form before George Pisi came in to score two against Glasgow.
And the versatile back admits he has mixed feelings watching from the sidelines as the Saints win but he finds himself having a small hand in proceedings.
“I think we are pretty lucky here in that we have a lot of competition in the backs and you can trust whoever comes in,” he added.
“But it is massively frustrating not to start games although ultimately all that matters is the team results not what one player wants.
“No one wants to stand around doing nothing but when I do get on it is just about getting my head down and hoping that I can take an opportunity that arises.”
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