Jim Mallinder has revealed Saints skipper Dylan Hartley could be back in the mix for the Aviva Premiership final showdown with Saracens on Saturday.
Hartley has not played since fracturing a shoulder blade in the league defeat to Leicester Tigers at the end of March.
He hadn’t even been able to do contact training until recently, but has stepped up his recovery during the past week.
And Mallinder could now be faced with a selection dilemma as his captain gets set to battle impressive stand-ins Mike Haywood and Ross McMillan for a starting spot.
“We’ve got a chance that Dylan Hartley comes back into the equation, which would give us a fully-fit squad to choose from,” said the Saints boss ahead of the trip to Twickenham.
“The selection for this week’s going to be massive.”
Haywood and McMillan have been in fine form during Hartley’s spell on the sidelines, with the former impressing in a play-off semi-final win against Leicester and last Friday’s Amlin Challenge Cup final triumph against Bath.
And though Mallinder would be delighted to have England star Hartley back, he admits it would be tough to leave out either of the hookers who have played such a key role in the recent successes.
“Dylan’s been out training with the non-matchday 23 and he’s been doing everything they’ve done,” said Mallinder.
“He has been taking contact so he’s got past that stage. We’ve got to decide.
“It’s a big call. He’s not played for a number of weeks and our two hookers are playing really well. They will certainly be putting their hand up.”