Maturing Mallinder happy to steer the Saints ship again

Harry Mallinder will start the season at 10 for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Harry Mallinder will start the season at 10 for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

In the final three matches of last season, Harry Mallinder really came of age.

Given the keys to No.10, the Sale-born player, who turned 21 in June, made his mark for Saints, ensuring they didn't miss the metronomic Stephen Myler.

So composed was Mallinder that Saints were able to secure victory in their final Premiership match, at home to Harlequins, and then progress through the Champions Cup play-offs.

Connacht and Stade Français were beaten at Franklin's Gardens as the green, black and gold booked their place at European rugby's top table for the season to come.

And Mallinder's ability to steer the ship from fly-half, despite having played at inside centre for the majority of the campaign, was striking.

He did enough to be named in the England squad for the summer tour of Argentina and although he didn't play in the two Test matches, it showed he is clearly on the radar.

And now Mallinder will look to win his first full cap in the season ahead as he again aims to impress for his club.

"I'm looking forward to the season, it's very exciting," said Mallinder, who captained England to World Rugby Under 20 Championship glory from fly-half in 2016.

"It's nice to be back amongst the guys.

"It's great to see the new faces working hard as well and it's been nice to get a run-out and see the lads playing how we want to play and playing well.

"We've got some great new players and the existing players are already good as well.

"The guys have come in and they've added to things so it's exciting and I can't wait to get going because we've got a great group."

Mallinder will again be asked to play his part at 10 in the early weeks of this campaign as Myler is still suffering with the knee injury he sustained back in April.

Piers Francis has arrived to bolster the fly-half department, but he picked up a fractured jaw in a pre-season win against Glasgow Warriors at Stirling.

However, Saints will have no issue with Mallinder filling in as he played so well at the end of last season.

"It was unfortunate for us to lose Stephen, he's a key part of our side, but I enjoyed playing fly-half and the responsibilities that come with it," Mallinder said.

"It was nice to step up and ideally it wouldn't have come to those last couple of games but it did and we finished it off the right way.

"It's where we wanted to be, it's where this club wants to be, playing in Europe, so we're pleased."

Saints have been handed a tough Champions Cup group, with Saracens, Clermont Auvergne and Ospreys lying in wait.

But before they navigate those challenges, they must front up to some brutal battles in the Premiership.

Saints start the season with a gargantuan game against Saracens at Twickenham this afternoon, and that will be followed by huge home matches against Leicester Tigers and Bath.

"Every year we look to start well and it's even more important this year with the opposition we're facing in the first few weeks," Mallinder said.

"We're confident and we're looking forward to it.

"It's going to be a big challenge and we've had a little time to tweak a few bits before we get stuck into those games."

Mallinder will look to take the experience he has gained from linking up with Eddie Jones' England into the new season.

And he is desperate to get a taste of action in the senior England shirt in the months to come.

"I've got mixed feelings about the tour (of Argentina) to be honest," Mallinder said.

"I learned lots and it was a great tour for me in that I got the exposure and I got that experience, but at the same time I didn't go there to train.

"I was hoping to play a game, but it didn't happen and I was back in camp recently so hopefully that opportunity will come some time this year."

During an interview with this publication last year, Mallinder was keen to stress just how much he still has to learn.

And the studious back is looking forward to soaking up plenty more knowledge this time round.

"I'm still learning on the job but it's key for me this year to get settled in and play how I did towards the end of last year to hopefully influence games for the team," Mallinder said.