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Saints turn attention to Newcastle

European title contenders Northampton resume domestic business at Newcastle on Friday night with Saints boss Jim Mallinder adamant there will be no Heineken Cup hangover.

Northampton are currently fourth in the table, but will go above Gloucester if they ground the Falcons, who went bottom following their home defeat against fellow strugglers Leeds Carnegie last Saturday.

Mallinder said: "Newcastle are fighting for their lives and they will battle throughout the full 80 minutes and beyond. We are right at the business end of the season and a point here or there really matters to every team, whether you are at the top or the bottom of the league."

It is only five days since Northampton booked a Heineken semi-final clash against Perpignan, courtesy of their victory over Ulster in Milton Keynes. But the next week or so could decide whether or not Saints reach this season's Aviva Premiership title play-offs.

After their Kingston Park trip, they go to third-placed Gloucester next Tuesday, followed by a Madejski Stadium appointment with fifth-placed London Irish four days later.

"We got a good result on Sunday in Milton Keynes, but that is behind us now and we have been fully focused on Newcastle all week," Mallinder continued.

"Understandably, the players have been in good spirits, but they also know that we have to keep winning if we are to secure a place in the top four for the play-offs.

"There are lots of teams ready to capitalise if we slip up, so we have to make sure we don't."

Falcons head coach Alan Tait has made three changes from the Leeds loss, calling up full-back Tom Catterick, wing Gcobani Bobo and centre James Fitzpatrick, with Saints fielding 14 of the side that accounted for Ulster.

The only change is a back-row switch, with England flanker Tom Wood dropping to replacement duty, Calum Clark starting and Phil Dowson moving from blindside to openside.


From Belfast Telegraph