Still plenty of pressure on Saints, says Burrell

Luther Burrell provided two try assists in the win against London Irish last Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Luther Burrell provided two try assists in the win against London Irish last Saturday (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Luther Burrell insists there is still plenty of pressure on Saints as they head to Sandy Park to face champions Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.

Burrell and Co bounced back from a 14-3 half-time deficit to beat London Irish 25-17 at Franklin's Gardens last weekend.

That victory put Saints 19 points ahead of Irish, who look set to fill the Aviva Premiership's relegation spot this season.

But despite the fact Saints are now all but safe with seven games to go, Burrell insists there is still plenty of expectation at Franklin's Gardens.

And the centre says a top-six finish remains the target, with Northampton currently 11 points adrift of the Champions Cup qualification places.

"The pressure is not off us at all," Burrell said.

"Our coaches are putting us under a massive amount of pressure and we're putting pressure on ourselves.

"We're working hard, we've put some hard work in this week because we want to push ourselves and get the best out of each other.

"The competition at training is brilliant.

"It's a long way to the top of the league and obviously that's out of our reach, but it's not too far to finish in mid-table and qualify for the Champions Cup.

"That's our target and that's what we're aiming for.

"If we can start picking up some victories against these teams above us, we give ourselves a chance."

Burrell started against Irish last Saturday, making his first appearance since recovering from the calf injury sustained against Gloucester on January 6.

"My lungs and my legs were shot to pieces having not played for nine weeks, but it was great to get back out there," the 30-year-old said.

"It was frustrating being injured for nine weeks, especially because I was playing with confidence and in good form going into that Gloucester game.

"It was just an unfortunate injury so it was really good to get back out there at home last weekend.

"It wasn't an easy game, not pretty at times but it was good to get a win.

"There are times when you need to step into the game, having been out for so long, and in the first half I touched the ball two or three times, which is not enough for me.

"One of the messages at half-time was that we needed to get the ball into my hands and thankfully we did that and it paid off.

"It's a style of play that works for us, when backs step up. We've got dangerous players.

"I was a bit rusty, but it was nice for me to assist Rob Horne, my centre partner for a try, and it was good to see one of the best finishers around, George North, score.

"It was a game of two halves for both me and George and it was good to see him on the scoresheet.

"To react the way we did was brilliant, but we need to be pulling out performances like that for at least 60, 70 minutes and if we can, teams won't be able to live with us.

Saints will hope that is the case this weekend when they face an Exeter team who have lost their past three Premiership games.

"They're a great team," Burrell said.

"They'll be coming out of the blocks firing, it's a fortress for them and for us to put in a good performance, we're going to have to be fully switched on.

"We've watched their past couple of games, against Wasps and Worcester, and they haven't been up to their usual standards so we're expecting them to come at us from all angles this weekend.

"We're going to have to have a smart game plan and hopefully we can pick up some points.

"Exeter are up there with the most possession in the league so our defence is going to have to be massive.

"If we can put a solid defensive performance in, we'll give ourselves a chance."