Mallinder happy as England players return to Saints training

BACK AT THE GARDENS - Dylan Hartley
BACK AT THE GARDENS - Dylan Hartley

JIM MALLINDER says it is a ‘massive help’ not having to contend with a World Cup this year.

Saints’ start to last season was blighted by international call-ups as their premier players jetted off to New Zealand.

And while the likes of Ben Foden and Courtney Lawes endured a tough time for England in the World Cup, their club were also struggling.

Mallinder’s men won just two of the six games when their international players were away, leaving them hovering around the Premiership drop zone.

But they soon got into their stride when the World Cup reached its conclusion, eventually going on to finish fourth in the standings.

This time round, the England players will immerse themselves in pre-season at Saints rather than preparing for a trip to the other side of the world.

And Mallinder is enjoying having the likes of Foden, Lee Dickson and club captain Dylan Hartley, who all returned to training on Monday following the summer tour of South Africa, around.

He said: “It’s a massive help for us this year not having the World Cup because it’s very difficult when a lot of your key players away.

“This time we do lose them in the first week of August, they have a training camp so we lose them for a few days there but apart from that they’ll be here and they’ll be doing all the build-up ready to to go in September.”

Foden, Dickson and Hartley all played a part for England in the three-Test series in South Africa.

While they did suffer two defeats, the Red Rose claimed a creditable draw in the final game, with Hartley skippering the side.

Mallinder was impressed with what he saw from Stuart Lancaster’s side but he feels the international side still have plenty to improve on.

“They showed a lot of commitment and team spirit,” said the Saints boss. “They did really well to come back in the first game and in the last game as well. To get a draw, they’ll be pleased.

“There’s a long way to go, particularly in terms of their attacking game, that’s the thing they need to push on now and improve.”