Jim Mallinder says it was ‘fantastic’ to see three of Saints’ international stars return to action at Sale.
Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley and George Pisi were all back in the mix after injury and, in Pisi’s case, international duty, helping Northampton sink the Sharks 27-16.
Their presence made a major difference as Mallinder’s men surged into a 27-3 lead before the break at the Salford City Stadium.
And though the team struggled during a barren second half in foggy conditions, the impact the returning men made was clear to see.
“We had a number of lads returning from injury and it was fantastic to see Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley and George Pisi back,” said Mallinder. “They all played well.
“Dylan Hartley is a leader, he leads from the front and he was dominant in that forward effort.
“Mikey Haywood has played well for us over the last few weeks, he’s only a young lad. But Dylan’s got that experience and it’s good to have him around.”
While Hartley was the man of the match, Foden’s comeback was also a major boost for Saints as he allied attacking threat with defensive stability at full-back.
And Mallinder was couldn’t hide his delight at the performance of the England star, who had missed the previous 10 games with an ankle ligament injury.
“We’ve been unfortunate in that position because we’ve had four full-backs injured,” he said.
“It happens in rugby, it happens in sport that quite often in one position you keep getting a number of injuries. We had that at full-back but clearly Ben Foden is world class.
“That was his first game back from an operation and he fitted in really well and he’ll only get stronger and better now with that game under his belt.”