Northampton ready for another Heineken Cup shock

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The Independent Online

Dylan Hartley insists Northampton will step into the unknown without any fear at Perpignan tomorrow night, after their momentous victory over two-time European champions Munster.

The Saints marked their return to the Heineken Cup last Saturday by producing one of the competition's great performances to edge an epic battle 31-27 at Franklin's Gardens.



Hartley knows that repeating that feat in the back yard of the French champions will be "a massive challenge", possibly harder still because of Perpignan's shock opening defeat at Treviso.



But the Northampton captain senses something special building at the club - and he believes the Saints are capable of taking the competition by storm.



"We want to win the Heineken Cup," said Hartley, who will lead out an unchanged team at the Stade Aime Giral.



"We're new to the competition as a squad. I believe that will help us, and we will have no fear.



"Perpignan are the Top 14 champions and are set in the heartland of rugby in the south of France. I've never played them before - we are going into the unknown, but I'm excited about the challenge.



"It's definitely achievable for us to qualify from this pool. We have an 'awesome' team spirit, a great squad, great strength in depth of players and a good balance of youth and experience.



"We train together; we eat together; we live together for seven days a week. I believe it's vital you have a good team spirit. We are a team who want to do really well and go places."



All the focus after the Munster victory was on the performances of Northampton's new fly-half Shane Geraghty and Courtney Lawes, who are both firmly on Martin Johnson's England radar.



Hartley's own bulldog performance was largely overlooked. But the England management will have been delighted, particularly given the injury concerns over Bath hooker Lee Mears.



"I am happy with my form but I want to build on the momentum and confidence we've been developing as a team and individuals," said Hartley.



"If I do well for the club and the club does well, then I will wait and listen to what the big man Johnno says."



Elsewhere, Lions prop Gethin Jenkins makes his first start of the season for the injury-hit Cardiff Blues against Sale Sharks - after recovering from shoulder surgery.



Jenkins' return is a major boost for both both club and country, and he will captain the Blues after replacing John Yapp - one of four casualties from last weekend's win over Harlequins - while Xavier Rush has flu.



Sale have made nine changes after last weekend's 36-17 defeat in Toulouse last weekend - including recalls for frontline stars Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto and Andrew Sheridan.



Sale boss Kingsley Jones said: "This is a massive game for us, not just in terms of giving ourselves a chance to advance out of the pool stages of the Heineken Cup but we owe our supporters a big performance at home."



Newport Gwent Dragons, who almost picked off Gloucester in the opening round, hand debuts to props Peter Bracken and Phil Price for the visit of Glasgow - who lost Rob Dewey (ankle) and DTH van der Merwe (wrist) in their narrow defeat to Biarritz last weekend.



In the Amlin Challenge Cup, Connacht travel to Montpellier and Montauban host Petrarca.



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