Mallinder: Saints are prepared
Jim Mallinder insists Northampton are better prepared for Sunday's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster thanks to last season's failure at Thomond Park.
Saints' lack of big-game experience was exposed when they were dumped out of the competition at the same stage last year with a 33-19 defeat by Munster. Twelve months further down their development cycle, Mallinder believes an older and wiser Northampton are now ready to turn promise into success.
"The experience that we picked up in Limerick, and over the last two or three years, has helped us," said the club's director of rugby.
"The quarter-final against Munster showed to us what massive occasions these games are.
"We didn't enter that game with fear, but for a lot of people we were heading into the unknown even though we had played Munster already that same season.
"It showed the value of a boisterous home crowd and we know it's going to be competitive on Sunday.
"We found the quarter-final a step up in intensity, noise and commitment. That's something we're hoping to reproduce on Sunday.
"One of our goals in pre-season was to go a step further this time. We now have that opportunity.
"We have a home game in the quarter-finals and we can't ask for more than that."
Scotland centre Joe Ansbro is sidelined with a knee injury but is the only absentee for the last eight showdown at stadium:mk in Milton Keynes.