Mallinder looks to end year on a high
Published 29/12/2012 | 15:12
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has demanded an immediate return to form as the Saints prepare to tackle Saracens at stadiumMK.
Mallinder's men produced their finest performance of the season to beat Ulster at Ravenhill in the Heineken Cup - but then lost to Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens last weekend.
"Saracens are one of the top teams in Europe but we know that when we play at our best we are a match for anyone," said Mallinder. "So nothing less than a top performance will do as we look to end 2012 in a positive way. Things didn't go quite our way against Harlequins so everyone has been focused and determined in training this week."
He added: "We certainly have a point to prove against Saracens and we have the belief in the players' ability and desire to get a result in Milton Keynes."
Northampton are boosted by the return of captain Dylan Hartley after he served a two-match ban for striking Ulster captain Rory Best.
Mallinder has changed his whole front row with Hartley packing down alongside Alex Waller, who takes over from Soane Tonga'uiha, and Brian Mujati.
Dominick Waldouck returns to the Saints midfield for Tom May and he will start opposite England centre Brad Barritt, who is back for Saracens.
The hosts have rested club captain Steve Borthwick and so number eight Ernst Joubert will lead the side, while John Smit returns to the front row and Neil de Kock at scrum-half.