Jim Mallinder is hopeful that Dylan Hartley will return to action in the Champions Cup clash with Glasgow Warriors at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday.
But the Saints director of rugby has reiterated that Hartley will face a fight for a starting spot if he does recover from the rib injury that kept him out of Saturday’s defeat at Leicester.
Mike Haywood once again occupied the No.2 shirt, putting in another impressive performance in the 30-27 loss at Welford Road.
The 24-year-old was always going to start the game, with Hartley named on the bench.
But the England star was unable to play any part, with Matti Williams replacing him on the bench following the rib problem.
And though Mallinder would love to have Hartley back as soon as possible, he continues to praise the contribution of 24-year-old hooker Haywood.
“He got a bang to his ribs last week,” said Mallinder when asked about Hartley’s absence.
“He trained a little bit in the week but at the last minute, he was just too sore to play.
“We were hoping that he would come through and be fine. It’s a bang to the ribs, and he has done some training this week, so he is not going to be out for a long time.
“But I guess ribs are one of those things, and particularly when you are scrummaging, you are not exactly sure how it is going to affect.
“I would hope that Dylan Hartley will be available to play next week, but selection is another thing.
“Mikey Haywood has been outstanding.”