Saints boss Mallinder’s praise for fit-again Wilson

IMPRESSIVE RETURN - James Wilson
IMPRESSIVE RETURN - James Wilson

Saints boss Jim Mallinder labelled James WIlson a ‘quality footballer’ after the Kiwi made an impressive return to action on Friday night.

Wilson, who had been out since October with a calf problem, slotted in on the wing in the absence of the injured Ken Pisi as Northampton beat Castres 18-12 at Franklin’s Gardens.

The utility back was assured under the high ball in foggy conditions and was a good weapon in attack.

Importantly, the former Bourgoin player appeared to emerge unscathed from the tough Heineken Cup encounter, and Mallinder was impressed with what he saw.

“I was really pleased with him,” said the director of rugby. “He’d been out for a long time.

“During the autumn internationals he played well when Ben Foden was out. He’s come back from injury, it was his first game back, it’s fairly tough when you’ve not had many games at all but I think he fitted into the team really well.”

Wilson can also play at full-back, centre or fly-half and he formed a good partnership with first choice 15 Foden.

The decision to play two full-backs together is something England employed with some success recently, combining Saracens’ Alex Goode and Harlequins’ Mike Brown.

And Mallinder admits that tactic is one he is a fan of: having two men in the side who are experts under the high ball.

“Without a doubt, particularly in these conditions it’s good to have someone who can catch the way James can catch, kick the way he can and he’s a good runner and passer,” he said.

“James is a quality footballer.”