Burrell ready to help Saints make the most of Stade Français favour

Luther Burrell wants to help Saints take their second chance (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Luther Burrell wants to help Saints take their second chance (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Following Saints’ win against Harlequins on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season, downbeat players discussed how they had blown their big chance.

Jim Mallinder’s men had won, but not by enough as they failed to finish in the league’s top six.

At that point, it looked as though their Champions Cup hopes had gone up in smoke.

Saints seemed set for trips to some of European rugby’s outposts in the Challenge Cup next season.

But up popped good, old Stade Français to save the day.

The French team roared back from 10-0 down to defeat Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final last Friday.

That gave Saints a reprieve as had Gloucester won, the Cherry and Whites would have been the ones hosting Connacht in a Champions Cup play-off this weekend.

But as it is, Jim Mallinder’s men will get another bite at the cherry.

And if they can beat Connacht, they can set up a Champions Cup shootout against the winners of the clash between Stade Français and Cardiff Blues at the Gardens next Friday night.

“It’s another lifeline,” said Saints centre Luther Burrell.

“This season, results have gone our way, gone our way, gone our way and we haven’t quite capitalised on them.

“Teams above us have slipped up and then we haven’t picked up points as we should have.

“This weekend is massive.

“Stade Français did a number on Gloucester, which helped us out massively.

“The lads came into work on Monday and really bought into what we’ve got to do.

“It’s a massive weekend for the club and where we need to be.

“You look at the calibre of player we’ve got and we need to be performing on the biggest stage and in the big tournaments.

“We understand what’s on the line this weekend and it’s huge for us.”

In terms of prestige, the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup are poles apart.

And Burrell said: “We watched Saracens in the Champions Cup final against Clermont at the weekend and as a rugby player, if you don’t want a piece of that pie there is something wrong with you.

“It’s unbelievable and it was an unbelievable achievement.

“I know I want to be part of that, I want to keep progressing and the club wants to go in the right direction.

“We need to be playing on that stage and it’s not really a time to look back at what ifs because we’ve got another opportunity.

“The off-season is a time for us to reflect and understand where we need to fix up for next year.

“The beauty of this weekend is that we don’t really know too much about Connacht so we need to focus on ourselves and what we’re going to bring.

“We know exactly what’s on the line this weekend.”

If Saints are to beat Connacht, they will need Burrell to be at his bulldozing best, just as he was in the win against Harlequins.

“I got a lot of positive feedback from that,” he said.

“I was back doing what I do, playing at 12 and that’s what I enjoy doing.

“The balance we had with Harry Mallinder playing 10, my role changed and it was to progress us up the field and press.

“We got a lot of joy from it and it felt a bit like the Northampton of old, getting on the front foot. That’s our DNA.”