Northmapton Saints v Bath
Mallinder seeking improvement against Bath
November 22, 2008
Saints boss Jim Mallinder knows that his team will have to step up against Bath © Getty Images
Northampton Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder says that improvement is needed from his team when league leaders Bath arrive at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.
Bath head to the Gardens unbeaten on their domestic travels this season and Mallinder is well aware that the West Country side will pose a massive threat to the Saints' good home record. "Bath have played some excellent rugby this season and are rightly top of the table," he said.
"Steve Meehan has developed an athletic and dynamic team that is comfortable keeping the ball alive and always looks to create opportunities. His players are also well conditioned, which was shown when they scored in the last minute against Leicester last weekend. It is understandable if they are approaching tomorrow's game in confident mood.
"But our squad are looking forward to the game as well. They have been working extremely hard during training this week. The mood has been upbeat and everyone is determined to put last Sunday's disappointment behind them."
The Northampton public have reacted by making this the first Franklin's Gardens sell-out of the campaign so far and Mallinder says that this support is very much appreciated by the players.
"All season the support at Franklin's Gardens has been excellent," he said. "The passionate and intense atmosphere in the stadium created by the fans has been a major factor in our good home record and everyone is delighted that the ground has sold out for such an important game."
Bath make two changes to the starting XV that faced Leicester Tigers last week. Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu replaces Shaun Berne at 12 and Jack Cuthbert comes in for the injured Joe Maddock (fractured eye-socket) at fullback.
Speaking on the challenges Bath will face against Northampton, Skills and Defence coach Brad Davis said, "I expect them to be mobile and athletic and they are likely to play a really up-tempo kind of game. So we have got to play our game and control the ball. We need to at least do that to get an equal share of possession.
"I think if we do that, we will come out on the right side of the score board. But we are under no illusion that it will be a big test for us coming on from our game against Leicester."
Northampton: Stephen Myler, Chris Ashton, Chris Mayor, James Downey, Bruce Reihana (c), Carlos Spencer, Ben Foden, Tom Smith, Joe Gray, Barry Stewart, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Juandre Kruger, Mark Hopley, Mark Easter, Roger Wilson
Replacements: Paul Shields, Soane Tonga'uiha, Christian Day, Ben Lewitt, Lee Dickson, Nils Mordt, Paul Diggin
Bath: Jack Cuthbert, Andrew Higgins, Alex Crockett (c), Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Matt Banahan, Butch James, Scott Bemand, David Barnes, Pieter Dixon, Duncan Bell, Justin Harrison, Danny Grewcock, Peter Short, Jonny Faamatuainu, Daniel Browne
Replacements: Rob Hawkins, Aaron Jarvis, Stuart Hooper, James Scaysbrook, Mike Baxter, Shaun Berne, Michael Stephenson