1. ITV Report

Saints ready for Chiefs' challenge

Northampton Saints forward Alex Waller chatting with the media Photo: ITV Anglia

Northampton Saints forward Alex Waller knows what to expect when they open their home campaign in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Exeter Chiefs were the last side to visit Franklin's Gardens back in May as both clubs fought for the final play-off berth. They lost the game to finish fifth in their second season after promotion from the RFU Championship.

They return to Northampton having won their first game of the new campaign impressively against Sale 43 points to 6.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's clash Waller said ''Exeter are a fantastic side as we saw last season. They pushed us right to the very end when we had a little play-off game for fourth place.

'We've been training hard but I reckon Exeter have too. So it'll be interesting on the day to see what happens, and hopefully we can put in a performance.

'They've put in a fantastic couple of seasons. They're in the Heineken Cup now, and they're proving that they're a Premiership side. So we can't take them for granted when they come up here or vice versa.

'It'll be a tough game, I reckon it'll be one which is played more up-front with the fact they have a big pack. They like to work on their pack and they work very hard, similar to what we do'.

Waller has become a regular feature in the Saints squad since progressing through their Academy, and he's relishing having a bigger role after being named Young Player of the Year last season.

'It's a great buzz, especially being a local boy. its fantastic for me', Waller added. 'And I'm happy every time I go out. I'm pretty proud with the way it's come and hopefully I can carry on'.

Meanwhile Saints' Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder believes team spirit has been a big factor in Exeter's recent success.

'Every time we've played them it's been difficult', said Mallinder. 'They have no superstars, they don't go out and sign massive big names. What they do do is get good players who want to come and work for each other, want to wear the shirt, and play for each other in the same style. That makes them a very difficult team to beat'.

The Saints had five players making their Premiership debuts at Gloucester last week. They made a winning start, 24 points to 19, and Mallinder believes its something they can build on.

'We lost a few experienced players last season. But the players we've brought in are a little bit younger, full of enthusiasm, all wanting to play rugby', Mallinder added.

'They've fitted into our squad and our style very very well, and hopefully that will continue'.

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