Jim Mallinder backs in-form Saints to pull off Munster shock

JIM Mallinder says Northampton will travel with "confidence and belief" when they attempt mission improbable in Limerick tonight.

The equation is simple – beat Thomond Park hosts Munster and Saints will reach this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals. Making the figures add up though, is a totally different proposition. Munster, bidding to make the last eight for a 12th successive European campaign, have lost only one Heineken tie at Thomond Park.

Leicester's 13-6 victory three years ago will give Northampton hope, as should a rich vein of form that has seen them move just two points off the Guinness Premiership summit more than halfway through the league season.

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They also beat Munster at Franklin's Gardens in October, and while a losing bonus point might still prove enough for Saints to march on as one of two best runners-up from six pools, rugby director Mallinder knows a win would remove any doubt.

"Many of their players are familiar faces from their exploits for Munster, Ireland and the Lions," said Mallinder.

"But when the whistle blows it is just 15 men against 15, and if we play to our potential and stick to our game-plan there is no reason why we can't win.

"We are going in on the back of a good run – I think we are unbeaten in nine or ten games – and that is very encouraging.

"But we also know it is going to be very, very tough – Munster are playing very well. However, so are we and we will take a lot of confidence from that, concentrate on our own game this week and go over there with both confidence and belief."

Mallinder has made two changes from the side that crushed French champions Perpignan 34-0 last weekend, with Scotland prop Euan Murray replacing Brian Mujati and England lock Courtney Lawes lining up at blindside flanker. Phil Dowson moves to openside and Neil Best drops down to the bench.

Munster are unchanged from the team that brushed aside Treviso last Saturday, and their Ireland and Lions lock Donncha O'Callaghan is braced for a ferocious Saints challenge. "This will be right up there with the toughest we've ever faced," he said.

"We are guaranteed nothing unless we win, and that is our mindset."