Saints prepared for step into the unknown

Dorian West (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Dorian West (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Dorian West says Saints have worked really hard to be in the best possible shape for Saturday's clash with Connacht.

Jim Mallinder's men continued to train after the Aviva Premiership final-day win against Harlequins just in case they got a second shot at Champions Cup qualification.

And thanks to Stade Français' win against Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final last Friday, Saints have got what they wanted.

If they can beat Connacht at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday they will face the winner of the game between Stade and Cardiff Blues in Northampton next Friday night.

And forwards coach West says Saints have done everything they can to get ahead of this weekend's encounter against Pat Lam's men.

"We were disappointed we didn't secure it (a Champions Cup place) against Quins," West said.

"I thought we did a lot of good things in that game, but we were a bit loose with the ball in certain areas when we got them under pressure.

"A few decisions didn't quite go our way when they were on their line under pressure so it was disappointing not to secure it there, but we've trained last week, been in since Monday this week and we've worked really hard.

"We've had some good preparation and we're looking forward to the game.

While Saints finished seventh in the Premiership this season, Connacht ended their Guinness PRO12 campaign in eighth.

The 2015/16 champions won nine of their 22 league games and will provide something of a step into the unknown for Saints.

"They're a team we're not familiar with, we don't play them week in, week out and we don't get to see them week in, week out," West said.

"You look down the team sheet and there are a lot of players we haven't seen that much of.

"There are some we have seen a bit of and we did see them up close in pre-season in France so we can remember some of the strengths of their team.

"We've had a good look on the video, done our analysis and though you can never 100 per cent say what they're going to do, we know their style of play and what we need to do to overcome them."

But Saints will expect to prevail, especially with home advantage.

"We've lost a few more games here this season than we'd like to, but we've generally played pretty well in the past couple of months," West said.

"Our form's been on the up, we haven't got the results we feel we should have but we're confident going into this game and we know if we win this we'll get another game the week after.

"Everyone's positive and we're in the right frame of mind."

Champions Cup qualification is the minimum requirement for Saints.

And West said: "You want to test yourselves against the best sides in whatever competition.

"To play against the sides we do, it's always hard, they're very physical games played at high intensity and they're games you enjoy being part of.

"Our aim is to qualify for the Champions Cup and we'll see how it goes."