Retiring Waller will do all he can to give Saints more special European memories

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Alex Waller's strong final season at Saints has so far been apt considering what he has already achieved in black, green and gold.

After all, this is the man who gave the club one of its greatest memories when he scored the extra-time try that secured Saints their first, and so far only, Premiership title, back in 2014.

Waller, who retires from rugby this summer, will hope to add a second league crown to that as the black, green and gold currently sit top of the table with two games of the regular season to go.

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And while making plenty more fond memories domestically during this campaign, he has also added some extra pictures to his European scrapbook.

Alex Waller (photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for Investec)Alex Waller (photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for Investec)
Alex Waller (photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for Investec)

Waller, who was a replacement in the 2011 Heineken Cup final when Saints lost in dramatic fashion to Leinster, has helped his club to secure six wins from six in this season's competition.

It is a run that has propelled them to the semi-finals, where they will meet Leinster in a mouthwatering Croke Park clash on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm).

And how Waller would love to get Saints over the line in Dublin as he looks to extend his and his beloved club's European exploits for another week.

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"I've had some great memories in this competition, some on the pitch, some off the pitch, but we won't talk about that!" Waller said.

"It's always great for team bonding, the only real experience of touring you get in club rugby, albeit only being away for a weekend, and you play teams you wouldn't normally play.

"These are great weekends, great occasions, and hopefully there's one more to come after this.

"I'll be doing all I can to make sure the club and the boys get another week in Europe.

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"It is my last European away trip regardless of what happens, and it's certainly something I'm embracing.

"I've spoken about it before that retirement changes your perspective on the games you play because you know it's one of the last times or the last time.

"It certainly makes you appreciate it a bit more, but when you get on the pitch it's the same job and you've got to do it with the intensity you always have done - or maybe a bit more.

"It's a challenge I'm looking forward to and one we're all embracing as a squad."

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One of Saints' best memories in Europe's top tier tournament came against Leinster in December 2013 as they travelled to Dublin and turned the tables on the Irish giants.

Leinster had cruised to a 40-7 win at the Gardens the week before, but Saints rocked up, rolled their sleeves up and secured a stunning 18-9 success at the Aviva Stadium.

"I was just making my way up the stairs (for the media session) and there's a big picture of Jamie Elliott running in for the try against Leinster," Waller said. "It was a great memory.

"We'd had a tough week the week before, and no one was expecting us to go over there and do a job, but we did.

"If we can do that again, happy days."

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With such experience of big occasions, Waller is well placed to educate Saints' younger players on what to expect this weekend.

And when asked what he will tell them, the 34-year-old said: "The bigger the game gets, the more essential your basics are.

"You've got to do your job to the best of your ability and be the cog in the wheel that the club needs.

"I remember when we played in the final against Leinster and big James Downey was screaming 'play the game, not the occasion'. I won't do his accent…

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"As funny as that is to look back on, it's actually a pretty valid point.

"As long as you do your job with the right attitude and maximum ability, no matter what the occasion is, you should be able to hold your head high, and if we come out on top, happy days."

Leinster are odds-on favourites to make their way to the Champions Cup final this weekend.

But Waller said: "No team is perfect and there's plenty of ways we're looking to exploit some of their weaknesses.

"There are areas we can target and we're looking to exploit. Hopefully that gives us the upper hand.

"It's a bit of a game of chess, just with some massive hits in between."

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