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Mallinder ready for kick-off

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has warned his side there will be no excuses when they kick-off their bid for Aviva Premiership glory at home to Gloucester on Sunday.

Saints were unfortunate to be left-empty handed at the end of last term, with an astonishing Leinster recovery denying them Heineken Cup success and local rivals Leicester edging them out in a bruising Premiership semi-final at Welford Road, but they have enjoyed a promising pre-season that included wins over Russia, Toulouse and Leicester.

Saints have been heavily affected by the World Cup, with key players Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden among those in New Zealand, but Mallinder said: "There is no room for any excuse on Sunday."

He added: "Yes, we have had some good performances over the past few weeks. But as always there are plenty of things we have been concentrating on in training and once the Aviva Premiership season starts all of that pre-season work will be quickly forgotten if we don't get a positive result against Gloucester.

"Gloucester finished last season very well, winning the LV= Cup along the way, and they got a good result against Russia last week. Bryan Redpath is a good coach and he has some talented players available to him who have the ability to pose us plenty of problems.

"So we will need to be switched on and concentrate from the first whistle."

Gloucester boss Redpath is without injured centres Henry Trinder and Tim Molenaar, while fellow midfield candidates Mike Tindall and Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu are at the World Cup.

Those absentees have forced Redpath to move Lesley Vainikolo into the centre alongside Jonny May, but he is boosted by the availability of wings James Simpson-Daniel and Charlie Sharples, who did not make Martin Johnson's World Cup party.

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