Saints legend Waller didn't know about anniversary as he puts full focus on the present

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On Friday night, Alex Waller will play his final game at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

And how fitting that it comes on the 10-year anniversary of the extra-time try he scored at Twickenham to give Saints their first, and so far only, Premiership title.

The opposition will be the same as Saracens come calling for the Premiership play-off semi-final at a sold-out Gardens.

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But Waller is not getting caught up in too much emotion, feeling he has been there and done that in his recent send-off after the 90-0 win against Gloucester.

Alex Waller scored the winning try as Saints won the Premiership on May 31, 2014 (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Alex Waller scored the winning try as Saints won the Premiership on May 31, 2014 (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Alex Waller scored the winning try as Saints won the Premiership on May 31, 2014 (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

In fact, he didn't even realise there was an anniversary to celebrate this week as he remains fully focused on the present rather than the past.

"I didn't know that about the anniversary, to be honest!," Waller said.

"But I've come to terms with the fact this will be the last season I'll play professionally, I've come to terms with the fact that my days at Franklin's Gardens are limited.

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"There are no guarantees in sport so as far as I knew, when I walked off the pitch against Gloucester, that might have been the last time I played at Franklin's Gardens.

"I've almost had that moment already and I'm sure once I come off the pitch on Friday night there will be a bit of reflection and emotion but nothing I haven't been through in my mind already.

"I'm at peace with what's happening, I'm looking forward to the future once we've got these couple of games out of the way and hopefully disappearing off into the sunset with some silverware is the plan.

"In terms of mentally, I'm just approaching it like any other game.

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"You've just got to do your job so that's my process at the moment and maybe my coping mechanism, I don't know, I'm no psychologist.

"I'm just focusing on doing my job as well as I can and then we'll deal with anything that comes after that after it."

While this week is different as it could be his last before retirement, Waller has known many build-ups to big games.

He has been part of Saints squads that have prepared for gargantuan matches at home and abroad since making his debut way back in November 2009.

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So what have the 376 appearances he has amassed for Saints taught him about how to prepare for moments such as this?

"It's crucial you don't play the game on the Monday or the Tuesday and as excited as you are for the game, you've almost got to put a lid on that energy and put it into our detail and get that process right," Waller said.

"The energy will be there at a packed Franklin's Gardens on a Friday night. You don't have to work on your energy because that will be there and if it isn't, there's something wrong.

"Courts (Courtney Lawes) has spoken very well and the basis of that is the bigger the game, the simpler rugby becomes. You've got to do your job and you don't have to do anything special. You've got to be the cog in the machine that you need to be and we've proved through the year that when we do that, we can taken on anyone, especially at home.

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"Everyone is obviously excited to be playing in a semi-final again, especially at home - the first for a long time - but it's about keeping a lid on the energy and putting that into detail because the energy will come on Friday night."

Saints didn't have a game last weekend as it was Investec Champions Cup final weekend.

And many of their players haven't featured since the victory against Gloucester on May 11.

So how has the build-up to this Friday's game been?

"It's been a good build-up into what's hopefully going to be a massive game for us, and then one more after that," Waller said.

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"It's been a blessing in disguise because obviously we were very disappointed not to get to the final in Europe but that would have really pushed our squad on all fronts.

"Playing against a Toulouse side and then backing it up against Sarries would have been a big ask.

"If we can take anything from the Leinster loss and disappointment it's that we get an extra week and more recovery to fly into this big game for us.

"We've enjoyed it, we've been able to raise the intensity in places and really tone it down in others so it's a decent week's prep."

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Saints could have been in the Champions Cup final had some early nerves against Leinster not cost them dear as their late fightback fell agonisingly short.

They have had a tough time in semi-finals over the years, failing to win one in the Champions Cup or Premiership since that memorable 2013/14 campaign.

But the team of 2014 also experienced plenty of agonising defeats before silverware came.

And Waller said: "Those setbacks really brought about a closeness in the squad, and we've got similar here now.

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"There's a lot of parallels I can draw between the two teams. Obviously they are very different styles of rugby, different characters, different blokes, but the closeness and team bond within each team is very similar and that only breeds success so hopefully that will show on Friday night.

"The setbacks we faced in the 2014 team and the team we've got here certainly do bond you and bring you closer.

"You learn a lot more from your failures than your successes, we've learned a lot over the past couple of years and we're hopefully going to put that right in the next couple of weeks."

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