It may still be 100 days before Northampton Saints kick off their 2019-20 campaign, but fullback George Furbank is already relishing the prospect of a mouth-watering opening clash against Saracens.
Chris Boyd’s side notched up a fourth-place Gallagher Premiership finish last term in the Kiwi’s first season at the helm, falling one fence short of a spot in the final after a defeat at Exeter Chiefs.
But Saints will be looking to press on even further this term, with Boyd enjoying a full preseason at Franklin’s Gardens for the first time and now looking forward to the start of the league season in October after the Premiership’s fixtures were revealed yesterday in London.
A tough first assignment awaits the men in Black, Green and Gold in north London, with a trip to Allianz Park to face the defending champions beckoning, but Furbank – who enjoyed a breakthrough season for Northampton in 2018-19 – believes the door could be ajar for Saints to record a first league win over Sarries since 2016.
“It is always a tough challenge going to Allianz Park,” said the 22-year-old. “The last couple of years we’ve not had the best time going there and we hope that changes this year.
“But in October they’ve got their international boys away at the World Cup, so that will make the challenge slightly different this time around and maybe it’s an opportunity for us.
“We know they have got an awesome squad, and we also know that we have got an awesome squad, so it’ll be an interesting challenge first up with both teams missing a few players.
“You want to win every game you go into and the first match of the new season is important. You want to make a statement.”George Furbank
“Obviously they will be missing some world class players, but we are going to be missing some world class players as well.
“You want to win every game you go into and the first match of the new season is important. You want to make a statement and hopefully some players being missing just makes that task a little bit easier.”
Saints already have two weeks of preseason under their belts after returning to training at the start of July.
But while the summer break already feels like a lifetime ago for Furbank and co, the promising fullback knows the hard yards in the summer heat will pay off as Northampton go after more silverware next season.
He added: “I had a really nice five weeks off – I’m one of those guys who likes to get away completely from rugby.
“A few of the boys have done trips together before and we got out to Bali for a couple of weeks this year, but now we’re right back into it and the body is certainly feeling it after two hard weeks of training.
“Last year there was obviously a massive difference in the style of rugby we played; Chris brought it in straight away and it took a bit of time to click, but eventually it allowed us to get into the semi-final spots.
“We want can carry that on – we’ve always got a few work-ons, but I don’t think too much of the game plan is going to change, and hopefully that carries us to the Premiership title this year”
“Coming in to work is still very fun, we have been given freedom to play what’s in front of us, and we know that we are not going to be kicking the ball from inside our ten-metre line every time.
“If there’s an opportunity to run, we will take it. We scored tries from our own five-metre line a few times last season, and that can be the same this year.”