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Saints peaking at perfect time

Wed, 22 May 2013 18:14
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Underdogs suits us and we will go and play as that
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Courtney Lawes admits Northampton Saints' Achilles heel this season has been their inconsistency but the second row is adamant he and his teammates are peaking at just the right time.

Saints finished fourth in the Premiership standings with 14 wins and eight defeats from the regular season, before stunning table toppers Saracens at Allianz Park to seal their place in Saturday's Final.

Lawes and company will come up against east Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers at Twickenham, with their neighbours a model of consistency having done the double over Saints this year and not lost in the league since February.

Leicester will also arrive at Twickenham for their ninth successive Premiership Final, while Northampton will be making their first appearance having never previously gone beyond the semifinals in three attempts.

But while the odds may be stacked in Leicester's favour, Lawes insists Northampton's major weakness this season can be turned in to a positive in Saturday's winner-take-all showpiece.

"When we turn up we can beat anyone - like we did at Saracens," said Lawes.

"But our biggest problem has been putting games together consistently.

"If we did that week in week out we certainly would have been a lot nearer the top than we were. But we've got a chance and everyone is very much on board.

"We have not had the best season but that doesn't mean we can't go out and win. Why can't we go and win? We have never been underdogs as much as this year and going into the Sarries game, I don't think anyone thought we would win.

"It just goes to show that it's on the day and who turns up. I think the criticism makes you stronger and it brings you closer. If someone puts you down you always want to prove them wrong. It helps sometimes.

"I specifically don't mind the underdog tag. I just try and stick to my game. But underdogs suits us and we will go and play as that.

"Leicester are a brilliant team that's playing extremely well. So if we want it we are going to have to go out there and take it, they're not going to give it to us.

"I look forward to the challenge and I am sure it will be a great game and we're playing a great team.

"When it comes to Finals, it's the finer details and what team is more clinical on the day, what team is more up for it. The pressure will be a little bit more on them but at the same time we want to win it unbelievably badly."

At 24 Lawes remains a one-club man and has been through the mill with Northampton, with the lows currently outweighing the highs.

Among those lows was the 2011 European Cup Final, when Northampton surrendered a 22-6 half-time lead against Leinster as they eventually succumbed 22-33 in one of the most dramatic European Finals in history.

And while the defeat took plenty of getting over the England international is adamant the players have learnt from the experience and lightning won't strike twice on Saturday.

"That was a really tough defeat to take in the European Cup. I just don't really know what happened in that second half. It was the kind of thing you can only learn from," he added.

"If you are in the same situation again you can only go into the changing rooms thinking to yourself what happened last time and we need to make sure that doesn't happen again.

"It completely surprised us. But that's how you learn I suppose.

"Now we won't be surprised, we know what's going to come out if we are winning going into half-time.

"It was incredible. I just remember sort of falling apart but we were still winning. We took that into account. It felt like they were dominating so much and it felt like they were so far on top, we didn't really look at the scoreboard.

"Why didn't we just stop them from playing and put it down in their half and make sure they can't get out? I remember looking up at the scoreboard and thinking we were losing by 10 points but we were still winning.

"As a team we couldn't stop it. It came down to us and it came down to them as well, they came out and they wanted it, but it won't happen again."

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