David Ribbans admits he is licking his lips at the prospect of testing himself against two of the best sides in Europe over the next fortnight, with Heineken Champions Cup matches against Racing 92 and Ulster looming for Northampton Saints.
The men in Black, Green and Gold earned a bonus-point win over Bath on Saturday to enter the European block sitting third in the Gallagher Premiership, with Juarno Augustus (two), Courtnall Skosan (two), Tommy Freeman and Rory Hutchinson all on the scoresheet in a six-try triumph.
For the second week running the pack caught the eye for Saints, earning a series of scrum penalties and winning the physical battle up front in a stop-start match against Bath, and Ribbans believes that is a key element to allow Northampton’s skilful backs to flourish.
“I can’t describe how nice it is to be a part of a pack that’s going forwards at scrum time,” said the 26-year-old lock.
“A good scrum gets you out of jail at important times during the games, and our backs are deadly if we can give them a good platform like that.”David Ribbans
“When the opposition have to really commit all eight players to the scrum, it creates even more space out wide and we can hurt teams.
“Of course, we’ll take the five points. We knew Bath would try to play the way they did and slow our game down, as we can be so effective when we get quick ball.
“It was a bit scrappy at times and a strange game to play in, but you’ll never complain about 40 points on the scoreboard and five points at home.”
Despite sitting towards the top of the Premiership table, Northampton’s attention quickly turns to the start of their European campaign which begins this Friday evening against an all-star Racing 92 line-up at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off: 8pm).
The likes of Finn Russell, Gaël Fickou, Kurtley Beale and Virimi Vakatawa could all run out in the Parisians’ backline in Northampton, and Ribbans insists Saints’ forwards will have to front up again to stem the flow of their opponents.
He added: “It’s quite nice now we have a small break from the Premiership to be sitting in third place and looking good, while we are excited for a new opportunity to play in Europe.
“We’re really looking forward to these two matches; we’ve said as a group that this year we want to be competing well in both competitions, and that first game at home against Racing 92 is as big as they come.”David Ribbans
“They are a top French side and we want to test ourselves against them, so it’s a really exciting week for us.
“Traditionally French sides always come for your pack and I’m sure this Friday will be no different. They have big ball carriers up front and then all the flair in the world in the backs, so it’s set to be a cracking game.
“I think it will be won or lost up front, as it so often is, so it’s a big challenge and opportunity for the front eight.
“The way the competition is structured this season, the first two games are very important. We have two great teams to play in our pool stage matches, but on our day we can get a victory against anybody.”