The Saints have been paired with Racing Metro, the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso, and while some of the other pools will earn the ‘Group of Death’ headlines Mallinder insisted that there will be some tough games in the European campaign.
Both Racing and the Ospreys have squads containing plenty of internationals and British and Irish Lions, while Treviso have been the top Italian team for a number of years.
The Saints are likely to come up against the likes of Jonny Sexton, Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts in their trip to Paris, along with former Saints Brian Mujati and Juandre Kruger. Racing have also added internationals Luke Charteris, Brice Dulin and Casey Laulala to their squad ahead of 2014/15, while the Ospreys have brought in international full back Dan Evans and the 2013 IRB Junior World Player of the Year, Sam Davies.
“We haven’t played Racing Metro before, and going to Paris will be an exciting challenge,” Mallinder commented. “Racing is an ambitious club and showed in their recent play-offs win away at Toulouse just how dangerous they can be. They have a squad packed with quality players and are strengthening even further over the summer.
“While Racing is a new opponent for us we know what to expect from the Ospreys. We had to work extremely hard for our results against them last season and it will be no different in 2014/15. Dan Biggar is a top goal kicker and Alun Wyn Jones is an outstanding captain and any side that has that number of internationals deserves to be respected.
“We haven’t played Treviso for a few years, and it will be good to go back to Italy. But while that will be a good trip for the supporters we will have to make sure we keep our focus on the job in hand, which is to get a win over a team that beat Munster and ran Leinster and Ulster close on home turf in the Pro 12 last season.
“We know that as Aviva Premiership champions other teams are going to raise their game against us, which means we are going to have to raise our own standards as well.”
The fixtures themselves will be confirmed in mid-July.
All three home European Rugby Champions Cup matches are included in the 2014/15 Season Ticket package – for full pricing and booking information visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/seasontickets
European Rugby Champions Cup draw
Pool 1 - Saracens; Munster; Clermont; Sale Sharks
Pool 2 - Leinster; Castres; Harlequins; London Wasps
Pool 3 - Toulon; Leicester; Ulster; Scarlets
Pool 4 - Glasgow; Montpellier; Bath; Toulouse
Pool 5 - Saints; Racing Metro; Ospreys; Treviso