Saints looking forward to ‘home’ match in MK

Northampton Saints are bidding to create a slice of Heineken Cup history by becoming the first club to go unbeaten through a tournament – but they will have to see off a “class” outfit in their semi-final clash with Perpignan at stadium:mk on Sunday if they are to move a giant step closer to making it nine from nine.

The 2000 Heineken Cup champions made it seven from seven when they beat Ulster Rugby 23-13 in Milton Keynes in the quarter-finals but former All Blacks full back Bruce Reihana is quick to point out that Perpignan have contested a Heineken Cup final, losing to Toulouse in 2003, and have won eight of their last nine matches, including their 29-25 quarter-final victory over Toulon in Barcelona.

“This semi-final is absolutely massive for the club and for the supporters,” said Reihana.

“We have worked so hard all season to get to this point and we are all hugely excited about playing Perpignan in the semi-finals.

“Any side you meet in the last four are going to be at the top of their game and Perpignan are no different. We watched their quarter-final and they are a class outfit so we will spend the week looking at them and preparing for the game.

“Coming through the Pool stage as the only unbeaten team was a fantastic achievement and of course we are using that and taking confidence from it going into the one-off games but we know just how tough Perpignan will be on Sunday.

“The Heineken Cup is a really special tournament, bringing the top sides from around Europe together in one competition, and the level of rugby really increases from the domestic scene.

“It is a step up – it is almost Test match level – and that is why getting so far in the tournament is so exciting.

“This is a huge chance for us and a chance to really step up to this level. To have had a home quarter-final was great, exactly what you need when you play knock-out rugby, and getting the semi-final back at stadium:mk is perfect.

“Milton Keynes is only just down the road from Northampton and it has become a ‘home’ ground with the supporters packing it out like they do at every stadium we go to.

“Our support is fantastic. They follow us everywhere and they certainly give you the lift you need. It’s going to be tough, but playing at home has to be an advantage and we have to go into the semi-final with confidence.

“There is a good feeling around the town and we are all just waiting for the game to kick-off – the excitement is building and we know we have a very capable squad.

“We target every competition we play in and, as professional athletes, that is the only thing you can do, so we started the season in three competitions and we targeted all of them.

“We know how massive the Heineken Cup is so to have made it to the quarters and then through to the semis is a massive achievement.”

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