Last week was 'weird' for Saints players

Jamie Gibson (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Jamie Gibson (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Jamie Gibson admits last week was 'weird' due to the uncertainty surrounding Saints' Champions Cup hopes.

But the flanker insists everyone is now ready to pull in the same direction as they look to put Saints 'in the right place' for next season.

Jim Mallinder's men had to rely on Stade Français beating Gloucester in last Friday's Challenge Cup final.

Stade did just that, meaning Saints take their place in the Champions Cup play-offs, facing Connacht at Franklin's Gardens this Saturday.

If Saints can win that game, they would take on the winner of Stade's clash with Cardiff Blues in a shootout for a Champions Cup place at the Gardens next Friday.

Saints had already said farewell to some players after the Aviva Premiership final-day fixture against Harlequins, but all of those men - apart from the ones who are injured - will be available this weekend.

And former London Irish and Leicester Tigers flanker Gibson, who will definitely be at Northampton next season, said: "It's still very much this year.

"I've played at clubs where if you've got your final home game the second last week of the season they give you your leaving shirt that week, which is a funny one because you've still got to go away the following week and play.

"This is even more weird because everyone trained last Monday and Thursday with the possibility that was the final training session of the season if Stade lost.

"There have been various thoughts about whether we'd be back or not, but we've been training hard this week, there's still two more games and we've got a chance to finish the season not on a high but in the right place."

The Saints players are certainly under no illusions as to how important Champions Cup rugby is to the club and the supporters.

Mallinder's men have strutted their stuff in Europe's top level tournament in every season since 2009.

And Gibson said: "Everyone wants to play Champions Cup rugby. That is the reason why people come to big clubs.

"You want to win things and you want to play at the top level of European rugby.

"On the back of a disappointing season, we've run some good sides close and not got the wins where we should have done.

"We've got a second chance now and the focus this week has been really good.

"The boys are looking forward to it."