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Foden keen to fly the flag

Ben Foden insists Northampton are determined to keep the English flag flying in Europe after progressing to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.

Saints subdued Ulster 23-13 in a full-blooded showdown in Milton Keynes on Sunday. Last year the champions of 2000 fell to Munster in the quarter-finals and English interest died with them. But having set-up an appointment with Perpignan on May 1, also at stadium:mk, Foden claims Saints are ready for their journey into the unknown.

"It would seem we're the last English side so all hope is on us," said the England full-back. "Hopefully we'll fly the flag a little bit better than last year. It's onwards and upwards now and we've got build on this. Sunday's match was a step up in level. The pressure builds, everything ups in intensity and everything gets bigger and bigger."

He added: "This will be my first Heineken Cup semi-final. It's a new experience for this squad, but one that we look forward to and hopefully perform well in."

Saints faced Perpignan twice in the group stage of last year's Heineken Cup, losing 29-13 away but romping to a 34-0 victory at Franklin's Gardens. The big-spending French club have progressed by beating Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon 29-25.

"We had them last year in our group, so we know what to expect," said Foden. "They're a very physical team and they have been playing well as well and we know it's going to be a difficult game. We'll do our homework and put together a good gameplan. Hopefully we'll find some chinks in their armour."

French clubs have the reputation of being poor travellers in the Heineken Cup and Foden's Saints and England team-mate Chris Ashton hints that may be their Achilles heel.

"Perpignan are always looking for an offload no matter what position they are in and that can de very dangerous," said Ashton. "I know in the past that French teams haven't travelled well. They must come over here and play us close to home so we're looking forward to it."

Foden and Ashton combined superbly against Ulster to set up the decisive second-half try for Lee Dickson, swapping passes down the left touchline. A wonderful pick up from Jon Clarke continued a ruthlessly executed counter-attack that finished with Dickson hurtling over.

"You don't get many chances in quarter-finals and there was a little bit of a gap, so we took it" added Ashton.

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