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Why Alex Waller's career ended 'pretending I needed the toilet'

By Liam Heagney
Alex Waller after full-time last Saturday (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The now-retired Alex Waller has revealed how excruciating being on the sidelines felt during the conclusion of last Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final. There were 52 minutes gone when Northampton decided to make a change at loosehead, swapping the starting Waller for replacement Emmanuel Iyogun.

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That left Waller watching on helplessly as 14-man Bath took the lead and it left the Saints relying on a late converted Alex Mitchell try before bagging their second league title in 10 years.

The 34-year-old, who was the crucial try-scorer in the 2014 decider, had now explained what it was like looking on from the sidelines, revealing that the tension was so bad that he headed away down the tunnel on a number of occasions pretending he needed to go to the loo so that he didn’t have to watch.

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Speaking on the Northampton club website, Waller said: “We did not make easy work of it. It was not our best performance, but a win’s a win at the end of the day. In a couple of months, people will just remember that we won.

“Bath are a great team and to go down to 14 men and keep in the fight shows the quality and depth they have in their squad. It was tense on the bench. I had to take myself away to the changing rooms a couple of times for a few minutes pretending I needed the toilet just to get away from the action. We didn’t make it easy.”

As he said, a win’s a win and the 25-21 victory will be remembered in the long run as a fitting farewell to the departing Waller and two other fellow pack stalwarts, the France-bound duo Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam.

“It is very surreal. It is a fairytale ending for me on a completely selfish note. To finish my career winning the Premiership with a bunch of amazing blokes who I have been through a lot with. I have sort of bookended my career winning Premiership trophies. It’s not too bad a way to finish.”

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What eventually got Northampton over the line, according to Waller, was the amount of times this season they encountered backs-to-the-wall situations, adversity that helped them to cope when struggling and going behind to man-down Bath.

“The underlying confidence in the squad is probably what got us over the line,” he reckoned. “We had faced that adversity a couple of times this season – being behind against some big sides like Toulon, and we had a big dance at Twickenham against Quins, the semi-final against Leinster at Croke Park.

“We have had a bit of experience with big stadiums and big games so that’s probably what got us over the line today. Bath were a credit to themselves and pushed us in a lot of areas, but we were good enough to get over the line.”

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