Full Saints injury update ahead of Bristol Bears clash
Alex Mitchell is now back in full training at Saints and 'absolutely champing at the leash' to get back in action.
That was the hugely positive news delivered by Saints assistant coach Matt Ferguson during Wednesday's media session.
Mitchell has recently been training with England's Six Nations squad after recovering from a serious knee injury that has kept him out of action so far during this campaign.
The talented 22-year-old, who scooped Saints' young player of the year award last season, suffered the injury while playing for an England XV against the Barbarians last June.
But Mitchell is now closing in on a return to action.
"He's definitely moving around and he's taken part in full training this week," said Ferguson.
"He looks very hungry and very refreshed and he's absolutely champing at the leash to get released."
But Piers Francis, who was stretchered off with a head injury just 13 minutes into the defeat to London Irish last month, has been unable to resume training as yet.
"The medics will take full control of Piers going through the protocols from the head knock he took in the game," Ferguson said.
"We've not seen him on a rugby side of the building for the past week or so, but I know he will be getting the best medical care and will be going through the right medical procedures he needs to get him back on the pitch."
New Zealand centre Matt Proctor has also been battling concussion and hasn't played since the win at Wasps on January 5.
But Ferguson said: "Matt went through his full return-to-play and he's in full training.
"Now you mention him, I actually remember him hitting a pretty decent shot in contact this morning so he is available."
Jamie Gibson suffered a broken ankle in the defeat to Leinster in Dublin in December.
But the flanker is making good progress.
"I've seen him and he was walking unaided in this past week, which is a good sign that he's going in the right direction," Ferguson said.
"He's doing his S&C (strength and conditioning) for his return and one of the good things about Gibbo is that when he is given the all-clear to resume his rugby, his skill level means he picks up his touch and feel pretty quickly."
Lock David Ribbans is another ankle injury victim.
"It's a similar story for Ribeye," Ferguson said.
"He was on some sort of yoga torture contraption that I saw this morning, looking like he was working really hard.
"He's probably still going to be a while off (playing) yet, but he's certainly been active.
"One of the things you can do with the modern player, particularly in the forwards, is that you can recover from a number of injuries at the same time.
"You can have an ankle injury but while you're recovering from that, you can do a load of prehab and return from a sore shoulder, which I know a lot of our boys do to get themselves fit."
Lewis Ludlam and George Furbank are at a training camp with England at Kensington this week, while Courtney Lawes has been rested by the Red Rose.
But the likes of Alex Moon and Fraser Dingwall are set to be available for selection against Bristol Bears at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday.
Dan Biggar, who suffered concussion with Wales last weekend, has not been back at the Gardens this week, but Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson could be available for selection.
Saints will be without Api Ratuniyarawa, who is serving a four-week suspension after being sent off against London Irish on February 24.
The Fijian lock will not be available until March 10, meaning he misses the matches against Bristol, Exeter Chiefs, Saracens and Worcester Warriors.
And with Lawes away with England and Ribbans injured, that could leave Saints light in the second row.
But Ferguson is confident the likes of Moon and Alex Coles can fill the void.
"Moony has been with us this week training and he's got some good experience from his time in Portugal with England," Ferguson said.
"We've got options as we've got back row players who could fit into that area as well.
"I'm pretty sure we'll be okay, but we probably can't afford too many knocks in that area during Api's suspension."