Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder says his side are looking forward to being the underdogs in this weekend's European Champions Cup opener against Saracens.
Opening their European Champions Cup campaign against the reigning double champions Saracens, Saints return to Franklin's Gardens after finishing the first block of Premiership games in third place in the league.
Looking ahead to Sunday's game, Mallinder said that Saints are still acutely aware of how they had to get into the competition at the end of last season but are looking forward to the challenge of their tough pool.
"We’re really excited about playing in the Champions Cup," Mallinder commented ahead of this weekend's competition opener.
"We had to qualify the hard way, winning a semi-final and final against Stade at the end of last season. It meant our season went on but it was certainly worthwhile and now we’re really looking forward.
"We’ve got a challenging group, but we’re looking forward to the challenge and competition."
After a disappointing league meeting with Saracens in the Aviva Premiership opener, Mallinder says that despite being pinned as the underdogs, Saints are looking forward to the rematch.
"We were well beaten in that competition, but it’s a change and we’re playing at home, we know that they are European champions, they’re a formidable side.
"It’s going to be tough, we will be the underdogs going into that game, but it’s something we’re actually looking forward to.
"I think it’s all about maintaining momentum, and we have bounced back and have won some games, but we’ve got to keep that going.
"It’s very, very important because I think if we can go into the Saracens game and then the Clermont away game on the back of some good wins, there’s no reason why we can’t be very competitive.
"We won the Premiership a few years ago, we got to the final a few years ago of Europe, and now what we’d love to do is win the Champions Cup.
"We know how difficult it will be, the first job is to get through our difficult pool, and that starts with a home game against Saracens."