Mallinder: Anglo-Welsh Cup is important to Saints
Jim Mallinder has stressed the importance of the Anglo-Welsh Cup to Saints.
And the director of rugby admits he and his players missed it last season.
The competition was taken out of the schedule during the previous campaign, which was made more compact because of a delayed start due to the Rugby World Cup.
That meant teams faced the relentless task of playing Premiership and Champions Cup matches every weekend, without the chance to rest and rotate in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
But though Mallinder will mix his team up for the trip to Newcastle Falcons on Sunday, he insists the domestic cup is one Saints value highly.
And the fact they won it under his stewardship in 2010, and reached the final in 2012 and 2014, tells the tale of Northampton’s commitment to the competition.
“I think we put a lot of emphasis on its importance – certain teams use it as a complete development tool,” Mallinder said.
“Their academy coaches or second team coaches step up and take control, but we don’t see it like that. We don’t see it as a Wanderers game.
“We like to still run it as we normally would, put the same analysis into our preparation.
“All the coaches have a big say, so (Academy coaches) Mark Hopley and Paul Diggin have been working alongside Alan Dickens and Dorian West, and we’ve had a good week.
“There are certain players who have been playing really well for the Wanderers and not been getting too much game time for the first team or not getting any game time, and we’re really looking forward to seeing them play.”
And Mallinder added: “I think we probably missed this competition last year.
“It is a great opportunity (to rotate) and last year we played just Premiership and European matches every single week.
“I think it’s very, very good and hopefully we will see the benefit of that this year by playing some of these players who, first of all, have not had much game time or some of the others who have been on the bench and not actually started many games.
“You’ll see from our team, when it comes out on Friday, that there are lots of players who are happy to be playing, want to play and we’re going to go up there well motivated.”
Saints will hope to get this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign off to a winning start at Newcastle on Sunday.
And Mallinder said: “I think we’ve known from the past that teams use this competition in different ways.
“Some of the teams, nowadays, who are not in the Champions Cup tend to put very young sides into the Challenge Cup, which brings their EQP (English Qualified Players) up and therefore they can go a bit stronger in the Anglo-Welsh competition.
“So I’m not exactly sure how Newcastle will take it. We’re not really that bothered, we’re fully concentrating on us, what we can do and the squad we’re going to take up there.”