7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
And Mallinder is under no illusions as to the size of the challenge facing his squad if the Saints are to make it through to the knockout stages for the second season running as they go in search of a repeat of their famous Heineken Cup triumph a decade ago.
"The Heineken Cup is the best club competition in world rugby and there are never any easy games," said Mallinder.
"Cardiff Blues showed how far they have come by winning the Amlin Challenge Cup in a hostile atmosphere against Toulon and Edinburgh have improved a great deal over the last few years.
"And any trip to France is tough, especially to a place like Castres, who don't lose very often at home. This season they beat both Toulouse and Biarritz, who reached this year's Heineken Cup final, which shows that they have to be taken seriously too."
But while Mallinder won't be underestimating any of Northampton's Pool 1 opponents, the former Sale Sharks and England Saxons boss does admit that the Saints fancy their chances of progressing come January 2011.
"Having said that, it is a promising draw for us. We have ambitions of becoming one of Europe's top teams that reaches the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup on a regular basis and this group is wide open," added Mallinder
"Every team will be able to beat every other team and if we work hard and get a bit of luck we could find ourselves in the quarter finals.
"We learned a great deal from our trips in Europe this season, especially the games at Thomond Park, and are eager to put these lessons into practice next season."