Tom Vickers’ Saints v Harlequins preview: LV= Cup can be a springboard

BIG DAY OUT - Saints fans enjoy last season's LV= Cup Final against Leicester
BIG DAY OUT - Saints fans enjoy last season's LV= Cup Final against Leicester

The LV= Cup might not be the most valued of competitions – but once again it has an important role to play for Saints.

The tournament seems to crop up at opportune times. Last season, Saints used it to build momentum after a slow start to the season, which saw them win just two of their first six Premiership games.

Tom Vickers staff photograph

Tom Vickers staff photograph

They went on to beat Saracens and Ospreys in the LV= Cup, lifting spirits in the process and providing the catalyst for a recovery which culminated in a top-four finish in the league.

The season before, Saints used the competition to help boost the confidence ahead of big end-of-season games in the Heineken Cup and the Premiership.

And the final win against Gloucester at Sixways eventually provided a comfort blanket as Jim Mallinder’s men missed out on both major trophies, with agonising defeats to Leinster and Leicester respectively.

It’s also a tournament that can be used to give young players a go alongside senior players and to give senior players, who have been warming the bench, some game time.

This weekend, Saints will use it for both of those purposes, and to get their season back on track.

The green, black and gold train has been derailed in recent weeks. After earning five wins from the first five games, the run ended with a crash, bang and wallop at London Irish.

Mallinder was left bemused by his side’s ‘embarrassing’ 39-17 defeat at the Madejski Stadium and while performances have picked up since then – and they couldn’t get much worse – wins are still ending up at the wrong destination from a Saints point of view.

It’s now four defeats in the last five games in all competitions and a win against English champions Harlequins, no matter which personnel register it, would be precious.

Follow that up with a victory at Newport-Gwent Dragons eight days later and Saints would have the perfect platform for a huge six weeks, which includes back-to-back Heineken Cup games against Ulster and one apiece against Quins and Saracens in the Aviva Premiership.

It’s a run which, in their current form, Saints won’t relish, but if the feelgood factor is restored in the LV= Cup during the next couple of weeks, they can go into it on a high.