Mallinder to make late selection calls ahead of Saracens clash

Lee Dickson was forced off in the defeat at Wasps after suffering a head injury (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Lee Dickson was forced off in the defeat at Wasps after suffering a head injury (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Jim Mallinder is ready to make late calls on his side’s concussion victims ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Saracens.

Dylan Hartley and Luther Burrell missed last Sunday’s defeat at Wasps with head injuries, while Lee Dickson and Kieran Brookes picked up knocks during the brutal battle.

All four players continue to go through the concussion protocols ahead of this weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-finals.

And Mallinder wouldn’t rule any of them in or out when speaking to the media on Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve got four head injuries and they’re all going through their return to play protocols so you don’t quite know how that’s going to pan out,” the Saints boss said.

“We’ve also got a number of other knocks to people like Sam Dickinson and Jon Fisher, but we’ll see how they go.

“It was a brutal game last weekend and we’ve picked up quite a few knocks to be honest.

“We’ve had a very, very quiet week, resting the players, recovering the players.

“Saracens have got the advantage of two days extra in terms of their turnaround, having played on Friday night.

“We’re having to look after our players, but by Saturday we’ll have a competitive team out.”

And when asked how disruptive it is to have question marks over so many players, Mallinder said: “It’s very difficult, but all you can do is train with the people you’ve got who are fit, so that’s what we’ve done today.

“Then the lads will have a day off tomorrow and we’ll get everyone out there who we can on Friday.

“It’s that up in the air. They could all be back or none of them could be back.

“They’ve got to go through all of the stages. You start light exercise one day and if they haven’t got symptoms they can go onto the next.

“They’re all at different stages of that sort of path at the moment.”

On Hartley, who has not played since suffering concussion in England’s final Six Nations match, against France, Mallinder said: “He’s in the system. He’s actually been running.

“When you play Saracens you need as many of your top players as possible, but we are fortunate that we’ve got people like Mike Haywood, who’s played a lot of big games.

“Unfortunately, Dylan’s not played that many big games for us this season so it’s good that Mike Haywood has stepped up.”

Jamie Gibson was another man who missed out last weekend, due to an ankle injury.

And when asked for an update on the flanker, Mallinder said: “He’s better.”