Vesty gives team news update ahead of Saints' battle with Benetton

Harry Mallinder
Harry Mallinder

Harry Mallinder could get his first taste of Saints action for more than a year when Benetton come to Franklin's Gardens on Sunday (kick-off 1pm).

Mallinder has not played for the first team since suffering a serious knee injury against Clermont Auvergne in October 2018.

But the 23-year-old has returned to action for the Wanderers in recent weeks and is now fit enough to feature in this weekend's Champions Cup clash.

Saints look set to make several changes, with fly-half Dan Biggar likely to be among the players rested.

Attack coach Sam Vesty said: "There's a little bit of rotation but the good thing is that there is a big expectation on the guys who are coming in.

"We're not bringing in young kids and crossing our fingers, it's guys who know what it's about, who are good quality players and it's their opportunity to go and show us what they can do.

"It's a good place for us to be as a squad, that we can make a few changes and feel really positive about all the changes.

"Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) gave lots of players some exposure and when you give good players opportunities they're going to take them.

"It builds the squad to where we are now, in that we feel very comfortable in certain positions that we are loaded up - in others not quite so.

"It's testament to Boydy that those younger guys are now 10 senior games further on in their development so there is a lot of faith in them."

On Mallinder, Vesty said: "Hazza is keen to play.

"He's done a good job in the Wandies and I'm looking forward to seeing him getting out there on the pitch."

Alex Mitchell is another talented youngster who has had to recover from a serious knee injury.

The scrum-half picked it up playing for England against the Barbarians back in June.

But Saints' young player of the year is on the comeback trail and will hope to return during the next month.

Vesty said: "Mitch has started a little bit of running around with us and is looking really sharp.

"He's done a couple of team bits and looked really sharp after being out.

"He's looking good."

Hooker Reece Marshall was due to make his return from a long-term hamstring injury in a recent Wanderers game at Worcester Cavaliers.

But Marshall, who suffered a hamstring injury in a game at Exeter Chiefs towards the end of last season, was forced to withdraw before kick-off.

And Vesty explained: "He had a little one-off setback but it's not dented him really.

"He's running around training and he's all good."

Saints will remain without flanker Jamie Gibson this weekend as he continues to recover from a broken ankle.

Alex Mitchell

Alex Mitchell