Saints experience helping Mallinder to make his mark for England
Captaining your country in the first match of a big tournament on home soil would normally inspire a feeling of nervousness.
But Harry Mallinder was never likely to be fazed, especially after playing in numerous big games for Saints last season.
The human wrecking ball centre simply strolled through England’s U20 World Championship opening night encounter with Italy in Manchester on Tuesday night, skippering his team to a comfortable 48-10 victory.
Mallinder provided a lovely assist for England’s second try, with his clever chip judged to perfection as he landed it in the grateful hands of Sam Aspland-Robinson.
He then proceeded to curl a conversion between the posts to rack up the first of his 12 points on the night.
It all looked so effortless for Mallinder, who admits having made 15 appearances for the Northampton first team since January has helped him adjust to this tournament.
“Those experiences definitely help me,” said the Sale-born player, who turns 20 on Monday.
“I was very nervous initially when I played at the start of this year in big games, but that experience can only help me in the long run.
“It was just nice to add my little bit to the England group and contribute.
“It’s very easy when you’re playing with such talented players to get on with your own bit and not worry about anyone else, but thankfully it came together.”
Mallinder was crowned young player of the year at Saints last season, having made a huge impact in his breakthrough campaign.
He scored four tries for the first-team, including a crucial one on his Champions Cup debut against Glasgow Warriors in January.
“That accolade was nice, but the most pleasing thing for me was to finally get the opportunity to play for the club after I’d been supporting and watching on from the stands for quite a while,” Mallinder said of his young player of the year prize.
“To be able to contribute was a great honour for me.
“It’s been great for me and I’m constantly learning from the likes of Luther (Burrell) and George Pisi, and when I played at full-back, Fodes (Ben Foden) gave me a lot of help, too.
“Being around those players can only help me.”
But Mallinder’s mind is now firmly focused on international matters, with England’s next game, against Scotland, coming on Saturday in Manchester.
“We’re very positive,” Mallinder said.
“We’ve got off to a good start, but we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves.
“We’ve got Scotland on Saturday and that’s going to be a huge test, especially after they won against Australia on Tuesday.
“It’s another challenge, we’ll take one game at a time and hopefully we’ll be in a good place come the end.”
And Mallinder will be up against a familiar face when England take on Scotland.
Saints centre Rory Hutchinson started for the Scots in their win against Australia.
And Mallinder said: “I’m good mates with Hutch and I’ve had a bit of a chat with him since we’ve both been up here.
“Hopefully we’ll both be on the pitch at the same time and it will be a good contest I’m sure.”