Dylan Hartley says Saints are ready to surprise a few people in this season’s Champions Cup.
Jim Mallinder’s men start their campaign with a mouthwatering fixture against reigning champions Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens this evening (kick-off 5.30pm).
It is a tough opener for Saints, who were beaten 55-24 by Saracens at Twickenham on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season.
And things won’t get any easier after this weekend as Hartley and Co travel to last season’s runners-up Clermont Auvergne before back-to-back matches with Ospreys in December.
However, the Saints skipper is confident his side, who qualified for the Champions Cup by winning two play-off matches back in May, can cope in Pool 2.
“I look at our pool, it’s a deep pool, very deep, but we can swim,” Hartley said.
“The good thing is: clear underdogs, but the way we’re going, we’d like to surprise a few people. We’ll keep our heads down and just quietly work away.”
After the Saracens thrashing on September 2, Saints came to life, winning their next four matches.
That run came to an end when they were beaten 29-24 at Gloucester last weekend, but Hartley remains in confident mood and has thanked Saracens for teaching his team a crucial early lesson.
“We are perceived to be weak,” Hartley said. “I’d rather people look at us and respect us, but you guys want to put the tag on it.
“Quietly we’re going to keep our heads down, work hard and apart from day one at Twickenham, things have been shaping up okay for us.
“It’s nice knowing we’ve got Saracens in that first game and we know the level that will be expected to even compete with those guys, the current European champs.
“We got a good lesson on day one, but they showed us how it’s done. So I’d almost thank them for that hiding because since then, we’ve had to have a good look at ourselves, gone away, worked hard and improve and so far it’s working for us.”