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Ma’afu desperate to go out with a bang

Northampton Saints had to wait 134 years to claim their first English title but winning trophies is all Salesi Ma’afu has ever known at Franklin’s Gardens.

And the Australian prop insists nothing less than defending his side’s Aviva Premiership Rugby crown will suffice before he prepares to leave the club this summer.

The 32-year-old joined Northampton from Western Force ahead of the 2013-14 season, helping Jim Mallinder’s side to victory in the Premiership and European Challenge Cup.

Despite another successful season in Aviva Premiership Rugby that has seen him help steer Saints on course to secure a home semi-final, Ma’afu will join French giants Toulon ahead of next season.

And while Ma’afu admits he will look back on his time at Northampton fondly regardless of what happens, he is determined to deliver more silverware before he departs.

We were really happy with the win over Saracens and then we’ve had two weeks to recover and look at the game to build on what we did well ahead of this weekend,” he said.

“Obviously winning the title before I leave is my main goal so I want to put in some good performances and finish the year with a trophy and nothing short of that.

“Then otherwise I just want to play alongside all the guys a few more times before I go off to be part of something different.

“I don’t think I can really know just how much Saints have meant to me until about five or ten years after I leave but I’ve enjoyed playing for the club.

“It’s been a great experience and really the word enjoyment is this main one that comes to mind alongside the brilliant success we had last season.”

Ma’afu will be joined at the three-time European champions by fellow Saint Samu Manoa and the prop admits they will be looking to bring the power that has typified Northampton’s pack this season to their new surroundings.

And while Ma’afu insists he made the right decision in turning his back on the Australian national team to join Northampton, he hopes the recent relaxation of selection rules will benefit his native country.

“I’ll soon be sick of the sight of Samu Manoa but it will be nice to have a familiar face there next season and they might be three-time European champions but it will be a new season,” he added.

“Everything will be up for grabs again and though there’s a lot to look forward to, that’s the challenge to get to that level.

“When I made my decision to leave Australia, still being able to play for the national team was not an option but it was still the best decision of my career at that point.

“It’s interesting to see they’ve changed things for whatever reason and I hope it suits them but I’ve got no regrets about what I gave up to come to Northampton.”

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