Saints boss Mallinder hails Wilson on his Gardens return

ROLE REVERSAL - Roger Wilson in action for Saints in their last meeting with Ulster in 2011. Wilson will be playing for the Irish side at Franklin's Gardens tonight
ROLE REVERSAL - Roger Wilson in action for Saints in their last meeting with Ulster in 2011. Wilson will be playing for the Irish side at Franklin's Gardens tonight

Saints boss Jim Mallinder has hailed Roger Wilson ahead of the Irish forward’s first return to Franklin’s Gardens tonight (ko 8pm).

Wilson exited Northampton during the summer, opting for a return home with the club he left to join Saints, Ulster.

The influential No.8 spent four successful years at the Gardens, helping Mallinder’s men reach the Heineken Cup final in 2011 as well as three Premiership semi-finals.

Wilson also boasts LV= Cup and European Challenge Cup winners’ medals from his time at Saints and he is held in high esteem by the club’s fans.

And they are likely to give him a warm welcome when he runs out for the Ulstermen at his former home this evening.

“He was brilliant was Roger,” said Mallinder in the build-up to Saints’ crucial Heineken Cup clash with the Irish side. “He’s a very good rugby player.

“He’s not flash but he does the basics very, very well. Off the field he’s a quiet man and he’s a good man.

“I’ve got a lot of time and respect for him and so have all the players here.”

At the age of 31, Wilson is one of the more experienced members of an Ulster squad which also contains some prodigious talents such as 20-year-old wing Craig Gilroy.

The Irish side seem to have got the balance right, and Mallinder knows just how tough it will be for Saints to get a win this week.

“That (balance between youth and experience) is the key to it,” he said. “They had a tremendous season last season. They did particularly well in Europe and they’ve started the season well.

“Those Irish clubs are difficult to beat. They’ve got a lot of resources, they look after their players well, they’ve got a structured season, which suits them, and a lot of their emphasis goes into the Heineken Cup and international rugby.”