So, the Aviva Premiership's final round of matches have been completed and now we know who will contest the play-offs. Exeter were this year's unlucky losers, missing out on points difference to Saracens in a dramatic final day's action.
Some will naturally question Northampton's selection of a "weakened" team as some have described it, and who can argue with that given the line up of players that were rested on Saturday. Some might even want to question the whole play-off system in light of it. It's very possible that a full strength Northampton would have pushed Leicester harder, even winning the game and so allowing Exeter into the play-offs at Leicester's expense.
In the end, when you take into account the international's and the impact they have on some of the sides, then not only do Northampton have the right to rest players as they did, but I don't think you'll hear too much complaining about the way things have turned out.
One of the great joys was that no side already knew what they needed to do except perhaps Leicester. They needed to win to get into the play-offs, nothing else would do. And you could argue that Bath and Northampton knew that win or lose they had already qualified. But who wants to lose?
There's no absolutely fair way to work these things out. Take the IPL's approach where they have some sort of tiered approach to the decide who is on the final. There's an eliminator where the 3rd and 4th place teams play and two qualifiers. In the first qualifier the top two teams play each other. The winner goes straight to the final, the loser plays the winner of the eliminator! Simply put, finishing first or second gives you two chances to reach the final.
In rugby terms, this year that would mean Northampton would play Bath for the right to go straight to the final, while the loser of that game would play the winner of the Leicester/Saracens game to decide the other finalist. Simple really! If such a system were adopted I'm sure there would be cries of unfairness for the team that had to play twice to reach the final. You can't really win with any of the formats.
Anyway, we'll be there at Twickenham enjoying our day whoever plays.