Fringe players ready to make the cut at Saints

Tom Stephenson is pushing for a start against Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Stephenson is pushing for a start against Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Jim Mallinder may want to consider re-enforcing the door to his office this week.

Because there is a likelihood that plenty of big men will be knocking on it in the build-up to the game against Saracens at stadium:mk on Saturday.

After two sizeable defeats - at Clermont and Exeter - there are players chomping at the bit to help turn the club’s fortunes around.

Men such as Mike Haywood, Tom Stephenson and Jon Fisher have all thrown their hands up in recent cameos from the bench.

And now they will want starts, hoping to help carry the load that has weighed heavy on the shoulders of some regular starters of late.

“They’re always doing that,” said Saints boss Jim Mallinder on the subject of players pushing for inclusion.

“What the subs have done is what you want them to do. You want them to come on and make an impact.

“That’s what they did at Clermont - we had a much better second half - and the same couold be said last Saturday.

“Clearly it gets a bit easier when the game opens up and you’ve got opportunities, but we’re pleased with their performance.”

At Exeter, Haywood added energy and drive, while Stephenson’s fresh legs danced around a couple of Chiefs players late in the game to help create a try.

Those players have proved they are ready to be placed in the Aviva Premiership firing line, with a striking example of their skill coming in the brilliant win at Bath in February.

Fisher, too, has been fighting hard for a starting shirt, adding power and panache from the bench at Clermont and Exeter.

And though those players, along with others such as Phil Dowson and Alex Waller, will accept there is plenty of competition, they will give everything they’ve got to get starts.

“The guys who are on the fringes will work hard this week and keep putting their hand up,” said Fisher, who has shown his strength in all back-row positions.

“I don’t know (how close I am to starting). You play in the back row here and it’s one of the best back rows in Europe. They’re all playing well.

“All I can do is contribute to the team at the time.

“The last few games we’ve been strong in the last 20, but then again arguably the game has been lost in the last 20.

“I just need to keep offering what I can to the team and see what happens after that.”

And players who have been holding starting shirts of late know that they must up their game if they are to keep their place for the huge matches ahead.

“We’ve got some players coming through and Stevo (Stephenson) has been in fine form pushing me and George (Pisi),” said Luther Burrell.

“There’s competition in the forwards with Mikey Haywood pushing Dylan and we’ve got plenty of options in the props, which is always healthy.

“It’s always going to be beneficial for the squad and in this final run-in we’re going to need every single player to come to the fore, because it’s going to be a big push now.”