Ahead of Saturday’s east midlands derby Saints boss Jim Mallinder admits it is hard to put the Calum Clark incident in the past when he has lost a top quality player for 32 weeks.
Less than four weeks after Clark was suspended for eight months for breaking the elbow of Leicester’s Rob Hawkins in the LV= Cup final, Saints will come up against their arch-rivals again in a crucial Premiership battle at Franklin’s Gardens.
Saints were upset about the length of the ban and with Leicester boss Richard Cockerill protesting so much about the incident, labelling it “as bad an injury as I have seen on a rugby field”.
Cockerill’s outburst was in stark contrast to Mallinder’s when Manu Tuilagi was given a five-week ban for a three-punch assault on Chris Ashton in last season’s derby at Welford Road.
Cockerill, who also had a confrontation with Saints forwards coach Dorian West after the final, has said it is all in the past and won’t affect Saturday’s clash, but Mallinder is finding it hard to get over it.
“It is quite hard to put it in the past when it is one of your players who is not available to you,” said Mallinder. “That is easier said than done.
“What we will do and have done is get on with Calum Clark and that incident. We weren’t happy with it, we still think it was disappointingly long, but we understand he injured somebody.
“It came out in the disciplinary panel, as Calum said right from the start, that there was no intent to injure somebody and therefore you look at the sanction that he got and compare it with some of the other actions in the past and it looks quite harsh.”
Saints decided not to appeal Clark’s sentence, which will not see him available to play again until November 2, though Mallinder wanted to keep the reasons private.
“I don’t really want to go into that now,” said Mallinder. “But we had a good look at it and we decided to accept the decision and move on.”
With Saints desperate for victory to keep them in the play-off places with Exeter breathing down their neck, it is combustible cocktail for Saturday’s derby, but Mallinder says he has not had to talk to his players about staying calm.
“I have not had to warn them,” said Mallinder. “You always want them to play on the edge, but not go over it. It is a professional sport and there is a lot to be played for, unfortunately sometimes that happens.”