Northampton Saints head coach Sam Vesty could not hide his excitement to finally get the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership season underway this Sunday (kick-off: 1.30pm) away at Sale Sharks.
More than 150 days on from when the men in Black, Green and Gold last played in the competition, the Salford Community Stadium hosts the Round 1 fixture against last season’s runners-up.
It is Vesty’s sixth season at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens following his switch from Worcester Warriors in 2018, and the 41-year-old admitted that training ahead of the Sale Sharks showdown this week has upped to another level.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time now but it’s always the same,” he said. “The butterflies, the expectation around training, the boys have just come off the training pitch now and are training at a different level. There’s been ding dong on the training park.
“Everything rises, there’s a little bit more in the tank and it’s exciting.”Sam Vesty
Sale’s Premiership Rugby Cup results leading into the start of the league season match that of Saints – with Sharks picking up three victories and two defeats.
Alex Sanderson’s side beat Bedford, Caldy and Ampthill but lost to to Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers.
Like Saints, they also have some key players away participating in the Rugby World Cup, but Vesty is relishing the challenge in front of the men in Black, Green and Gold.
“They’re a very good, strong team,” said Vesty. “They were very good last year. Strong and aggressive defensively. Sale play a pretty brutal ball-carrying game and have a really lively back three and are a counter-attacking team.
“I think they thoroughly deserved to be where they finished last year and it’s a great test for us. The fixture gods have smiled on us to give us a real test straight off the bat to see where we’re at.”
With three fewer teams in the Gallagher Premiership this season following the sad demise of Wasps, Worcester and London Irish, there’s six fewer fixtures – sharpening the focus on the remaining matches in the revised ten-team league this term.
Vesty said: “It’s straight off the bat, week one you’ve to be on your mettle. It’s such a good competition. There’s ten strong teams, it’s such a good product and we should be very proud of the rugby the Gallagher Premiership puts out there, week in, week out.”