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Friday May 3, 2024

Courtney Lawes rates Northampton's chances ahead of Croke Park debut

The pinnacle of European rugby will be soon upon us as the final of the Champions Cup comes into view. In just over three weeks, the best of the best will face off in front of a packed out crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Who will be in the final, is yet to be decided, however.

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The first name in the hat will be decided in front of a Dineen Hill 16 crowd at Croke Park, as Leinster welcome Northampton Saints to Dublin.

Leinster head into the match as favourites, but are expected to be heavily tested by a Northampton side that currently lead the English Premiership. Northampton boasts an impressive backline that has scored a third of all their tries this season, whilst Leinster are in possession of an almighty international pack that is expected to limit any opportunities for the English side to go wide.

Speaking ahead of the momentous match-up, Northampton Saints captain Courtney Lawes spoke about his team’s excitement ahead of their Croke Park debut.

“We’re really looking forward to the game, to be honest, it’ll be a great test for us. We’re a team that wants to push ourselves, and there’s no better test.”

Fin Smith appeared to be on fine kicking form as the team made their final preparations for tomorrows match:

Reflecting on the suggestion that Northampton come into the match as underdogs, Lawes gave an insight into the mindset in camp, saying:

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“We know everyone sees us as underdogs, but we don’t see ourselves that way, we back ourselves and our talent. We’ve got a lot of internationals in our team and got a lot of experience now. We know we’re going to have to put our game out on the pitch and play rugby the way we want to play it.”

It’s not just a case of coming out to play like any other match, but this will be the fourth time in Northampton’s illustrious history that they have reached the semi-finals of this competition. Adding the impact of such a historic stadium into the mix, however, could spell huge amounts of pressure for the lads.

“Pressure is pressure”, Lawes said. “This is the biggest club competition this side of the world. We want to make sure that we get our process right, in a good place going into the game. We’ve got a lot of young lads that have now had that experience playing in front of crowds like this and understand what you have to do to win a game like this. We’re thinking about what we need to do, rather than what pressure is on them or what isn’t.

“It’s definitely up there, and it’s really cool for me to experience this with the amount of people, expectations and interest surrounding the game with my club team. It’s a really exciting occasion for me, and I’m really excited to get out there.”

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