Northampton coach Dorian West was a double Heineken Cup winner with Leicester
Northampton Saints coach Dorian West would love to see his current charges emulate one of his former clubs, although Saints are determined to do things their own way.
West takes the Saints to Thomond Park to face Munster this weekend - a venue where only his previous employers Leicester Tigers have recorded a European victory.
The ex-England hooker had called time on his playing career before that Leicester triumph in Limerick in January 2007 but he does have plenty of memories of Heineken Cup success on the big stage with the Tigers.
West was part of three Heineken Cup Final squads with Martin Johnson and co, losing to Brive in 1997 before beating Stade Francais and, ironically, Munster in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
The 42-year-old World Cup winner describes those two European crowns as career highlights and admits he would love the current Saints squad to be able to experience equally positive memories in Europe's premier competition.
"I've been involved in three Heineken Cup Finals. They're things that you remember for the rest of your life," said West, ahead of Saturday's quarter final.
"The first one wasn't so great as we got beat by Brive but then the next two were unbelievable experiences. That Stade Francais game in Paris was an unbelievable match, something that you'll certainly never forget.
"Munster the following year, to win it back-to-back, was an unbelievable occasion again in Cardiff in front of a massive crowd.
"They were highlights. We'd won the Premiership and it seemed like the next step was to win the Heineken Cup.
"I'm just hopeful that some of our players will get the chance to be in those sort of venues and occasions in the future."
Saints are certainly heading in that direction. They might not be there yet but things have improved dramatically since West and director of rugby Jim Mallinder arrived at Franklin's Gardens just under three years ago.
Cast your mind back to 2007 when Saints were fighting a relegation battle despite reaching the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.
The European Champions of 2000 lost both wars that year, missing out to eventual winners Wasps in the last four of the continent's showpiece event before dropping out of English rugby's top-flight as Worcester somehow found form at the right time.
The shock of relegation prompted Saints chief Keith Barwell into action and West and Mallinder were brought in a month after the end of a dismal season.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that Saints' stock has been rising rapidly ever since.
An impressive 30 wins from 30 games in National One confirmed promotion back to the Guinness Premiership, with a respectable eighth-placed finish being partnered by a remarkable Amlin Challenge Cup triumph just two years after their lowest ebb.
This season has been even more impressive. Saints currently sit second in the Guinness Premiership standings (behind East Midlands rivals Leicester) and have recorded Heineken Cup wins over French Champions Perpignan and Magners League title holders Munster so far this term.
Success in Limerick against Munster in the knockout stages would be a shock to many but, given the speed at which Northampton have improved since West's appointment, it perhaps shouldn't be a major surprise.
"Northampton is very similar to Leicester and Leicester, to be fair to them, have been the bench mark over the last 10 years in English rugby," added West, who spent seven years at Welford Road between 1997 and 2004.
"We're in a slightly different position here at Northampton where it's all happened a little bit quicker than we imagined. Last year we weren't in a position to win the league but we did well and were pleased with our progression. We're aspiring to get to those positions that they've been in.
"We're working hard to build an environment and build a culture where we're going to be in these venues and these occasions more often.
"This year, we've come in hoping to be mid table in the league and to get some experience from the Heineken Cup and we've managed to go a little bit further than that. We're towards the top of the league and we've got a chance of securing a top-four place.
"We've done well to get to the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup - we're the only English team in it - so we're moving in the right direction. I'm sure the other teams at the top of the English league wish they were in our place this week.
"We've learned a lot as we've gone along. It's probably happened a bit faster but we're happy to be here and we're enjoying every week.
"We've won quite a lot of games and there's a buzz around the lads because we're going to a massive venue this week where we're expecting a hell of an atmosphere and a hell of a game."
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