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Club Rugby

Northampton driven to win Heineken Cup after Leicester loss says Jim Mallinder

Jim Mallinder insists Northampton's exit from the Aviva Premiership title race has invigorated their pursuit of the Heineken Cup.

Saints' quest for domestic honours ended with last weekend's play-off semi-final defeat by Leicester at Welford Road.

But rather than dent their confidence ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup showpiece against Leinster at Millennium Stadium, Mallinder insists the result has cleared the minds for one last do-or-die tilt at winning some silverware.

"We've put what happened against Leicester to bed," said the club's director of rugby.

"If we were in the Premiership final we'd have more than one thing on our mind.

"But we've now only got one thing on our mind and that's Saturday.

"We're in good shape. Without doubt it was a physical, intense battle against Leicester. Our defensive performance was outstanding.

"But we've got a fit squad and the lads are used to playing every week.

"Watching them train the last couple of days, you wouldn't think it's the end of the season or that they're tired.

"We're not staggering over the finishing line, instead we're refreshed and looking forward to the weekend."

Leinster, who have an injury doubt over Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, possess a formidable team from one to 15 and start as clear favourites.

Saints' chances have been damaged by the loss of England flanker Tom Wood to a hairline leg fracture, but winger Chris Ashton is available despite requiring stitches above both eyes during and after the Leicester defeat.

Mallinder admits the squad's mood over the summer will be determined by what happens at the Millennium Stadium.

"Finishing the season without silverware isn't something we're considering at the moment," he said.

"You always have to have a winner and a loser and we aren't daft enough to think otherwise. It has been a good season for us.

"We talk about learning lessons and the experience of playing in big games.

"And we know we will have a squad that will be together next year, whatever happens on Saturday.

"But right now there is only one thing on it for us - and it either makes our summer or breaks our summer - the result on Saturday."