Saints boss Mallinder backs Hartley to keep getting better

Dylan Hartley returned for Saints on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Dylan Hartley returned for Saints on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Jim Mallinder has backed Dylan Hartley to keep improving after making a return to Saints action on Saturday.

Hartley was thrown straight back into the starting 15 at Castres after missing more than a month of action due to a back problem.

But it was not a happy return for the England captain as Saints were crushed 41-7 at Stade Pierre Antoine.

And with international duty looming, Hartley will be keen to impress against Gloucester on Friday.

“It was a big ask for Dylan to come back in because he’s been out for a few weeks, but he’ll only improve over the games to come,” Mallinder said.

“I guess a positive from the game at Castres was that the bench came on and made a good impact, Mikey Haywood in particular.”

George North is another man who will soon be heading off on international duty.

But that is presuming the hand injury that forced him off early in the second half last Saturday is not too serious.

“He took a bang to his hand so he got a bit of swelling and I don’t think there’s anything broken, fingers crossed,” Mallinder said.