Northampton Saints - ‘We are a clean club’ says Mallinder

Jim Mallinder has defended Dylan Hartley’s reputation and declared: “We are not a dirty club.”

On Tuesday Hartley was given an eight-week ban after being found guilty of biting Ireland’s Stephen Ferris and tonight Calum Clark will appear before an RFU disciplinary hearing charged with hyperextending Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins’ elbow.

Mallinder confirmed the club and Hartley are waiting for the written judgement, which should be released on Friday, before deciding whether to appeal the ban, which rules the Saints skipper out until the Premiership final on May 26.

And the Saints director of rugby hit back at suggestions the two citings have tarnished the club’s image.

“The Dylan Hartley incident was done on England duty,” said Mallinder “The Calum Clark incident has happened, but we are not the first club and we won’t be the last club to get cited. I do expect that he will get suspended for an amount of games.

“We are not a dirty club. The people who see us play the game know we are not. Our players do not go out to intentially hurt or damage other people. We play hard and we play physical, but we always try to play within the laws.”

Mallinder was at Hartley’s hearing and with the lowest entry point at 12 weeks the Six Nations panel reduced that to four due to mitigation.

It is understood Ferris admitted he had his finger inside Hartley’s mouth and the England hooker may well have gagged before biting to be released.

Hartley is disappointed to be banned, especially as he was bitten himself by Ulster’s Pedrie Wannenburg last season, who was not even cited for it.

And though Hartley was banned in 2007 for 26-weeks for gouging, he has cleaned up his act since then and is a very different player.

Mallinder added: “Dylan is a different character to the one who first arrived at the club to what he is now.

“He has developed and matured into a fine leader and captain, he is a role model on and off the field, for what he does around the town. He has changed and that incident is totally inconsistent with the character that Dylan is now.

“Over the last few years we have seen players target him on purpose and also coaches talking about him and trying to put pressure on him that way. He is a tough player, you can’t take that away from Dylan. Any hooker who plays international rugby has got to be tough playing in that front row. He plays hard and fair and is a good leader of the club.

“It is a disappointment he has been banned for eight weeks, but until we see the written judgement it would be unwise to say anything else.

“You have got to see what they say and then we will take appropriate action.”

The frustrating point for Mallinder is that despite being cited on international duty, Hartley will be free to play for England in South Africa in June and yet misses Saints’ Premiership run-in and potentially a semi-final.

Mallinder said: “Ultimately that is the case. In an ideal world for a club, when somebody gets banned in an international match then they miss X number of international matches. But that is not the way it happens and it is unfortunate for us at Northampton that we will not have him back for the next eight weeks.

“Dylan is naturally very disappointed again with the outcome. He was looking forward to competing in the final few weeks in the run-in and then of course going to South Africa with England. He has still got a chance to finish the season with us, but we are going to have to do the hard work without him.

“It is annoying to miss Dylan, but we look at a lot of our England players and we have not seen a lot of them this year.

“It is a World Cup year and that makes them special, so you don’t see them for the first couple of months and then the Six Nations takes them out. Plus we have had a number of our internationals injured and currently injured, so it is a frustrating time when those players are not available to play for the club.”