Saints' European situation 'strange', says Lawes

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Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes concedes it will be "strange" to cheer on Stade Francais against Gloucester in next Friday's Challenge Cup final as his own club's European fate hangs in the balance.

Northampton's seventh-place finish in the Premiership leaves them pinning their hopes on a play-off to reach next season's Champions Cup.

However, they will only be granted that opportunity if Gloucester fail to lift the Challenge Cup, with victory in that competition securing a place for the Cherry and Whites in the play-off at Northampton's expense.

"It'll be strange waiting but it doesn't change much for me personally and the other boys that are going on tour," said British and Irish Lions pick Lawes. "For everyone else though it will definitely be strange.

"You don't know whether you're coming or going at the moment but like I said we've just got to stick together, stay positive, train well this week and see what happens.

"It's a strange situation to be thinking about cheering on a French team.

"But we want to be in the Champions Cup next year and hopefully we get the opportunity to do that.

"We've certainly performed in patches this season but consistently we haven't had the ability to put away games when we've been in the lead.

"But I don't think we're necessarily that far away from the top four. I think in terms of the players we have here; we could easily be a top-four team.

"Things haven't quite gone our way this season and there are certainly things that we have to address for next season but as long as we do that I feel positive that we can pull it together next year with the ability we have in the team."