7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
But on April 28, 2007, Saints fell to their lowest ebb. Relegated from the top flight of the English league system, the East Midlands outfit appeared to be a club in disarray. And while no one expected them to languish in Division One for too long, most critics believed their fans would face a lengthy wait to see the Saints challenging for top honours once more.
What happened next has been a testament to the faith of the fans, the insight of coaches Jim Mallinder and Dorian West and the belief of a group of hugely committed Saints players, many of whom felt the pain of relegation first hand.
Fast forward four years and life at Franklin's Gardens is a far cheerier existence. The Division One trophy has been followed by an Amlin Challenge Cup crown and an LV= Cup in successive years and now Europe's greatest prize could be about to follow.
"No one would have thought that this would have happened," said Clarke, who has been a key figure in Saints' revival having also experienced the dark days.
"We came from a Division One team to winning the Amlin Challenge Cup in a year, and then the LV. Everything's been building.
"From Division One, you'd never have said we'd be looking at a Heineken Cup Final in four years. But we've been building. We took every trophy we could and competed in every competition. We've kinda just gone one better each year, and here we are.
"But it's not finished yet, we're still looking to go higher. You could almost say it's built towards this opportunity."
To be crowned continental champions just four seasons after slipping out of the spotlight would be a remarkable achievement and yet it is now just 80 minutes away from reality.
Having won all eight of their Heineken Cup fixtures so far this term, Saints know a ninth would lead to the ultimate prize.
But Clarke and co are under illusions as to the size of the challenge that awaits in Cardiff. Leinster have been the form team in Europe this season, beating the English and French Champions, as well as the current second-placed teams in those countries, and Heineken Cup holders Toulouse.
With a whole host of Lions tourists and Ireland stars in their ranks, the Dubliners are being tipped as favourites for Saturday's showdown and Clarke admits Saints will have to be at their very best to write another remarkable chapter in their fairytale recovery.
"Leinster are the best team so far," added Clarke.
"All round, they're all internationals. There was always talk that their front row wasn't good enough but this year they've been pretty amazing, really.
"They dominated Toulouse in the semi-final. They play quick, they're fast, they've got some strong lads and they defend really well. That's pretty much what makes a top team.
"They've always been the favourites to get to the final. We've seen what they can do. They're a great team and if you don't defend well against a great team, they'll put some points against you.
"We were disappointed to give Perpignan a try just before the break in the semi-final - it gave them a sniff in the end. We can't let that happen against Leinster. We especially can't let it happen from that situation, where we had the ball, we had control and we gave it away.
"You want to play well against the best and the whole occasion in Cardiff will be massive. It will be a great feeling and a great opportunity.
"It's important that we don't go into our shells. We've got to play, we've got to run hard and we've got to look after the ball - it's the simple stuff.
"We've got to play above ourselves. We've got to keep our heads up - we know that we can pull out a performance. It was a good feeling against Perpignan and we want to keep that feeling going.
"It's a huge game and, against a team like Leinster, we've got to be on form. But it's all on the day."