Saints boss Mallinder expects Foden to feature at Worcester

Saints boss Jim Mallinder is optimistic Ben Foden will be able to play a part in Saturday’s game at Worcester.

The England full-back missed last weekend’s 27-11 defeat to Gloucester after the RFU asked Northampton not to involve him in their matchday squad.

Foden had played 10 successive games up to that point, having missed the previous 10 with an ankle ligament injury.

But he looks likely to return to the Saints starting line-up this weekend.

“He’s close is Ben,” said Mallinder. “He’s been doing a little bit of training with us, a little bit with England. We’ve just been monitoring his progress and it’s just taking each day as it comes.

“Ben’s done a bit of running, but he’s certainly feeling a lot better and it would be nice if he was available at the weekend.”

Saints will welcome back two of their other England stars this weekend, with Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes having been released in time to play at Sixways.

And Mallinder is looking forward to having them back, especially influential skipper Hartley, who came off the bench to good effect in the Red Rose’s 12-6 Six Nations win in Ireland last Sunday.

“He’s a big player is Dylan,” said the Saints boss. “He’s a real leader. Even watching and listening to the England game on television you could hear his voice.

“He’s instrumental and we’re pleased we’ve got him back. What he needs to do is he wants to be England’s No.1 and to do that you’ve got to play well.

“This is an opportunity for him to play well and show the coaches exactly what he can do.”

More good news comes in the form of prop Brian Mujati, who is close to making his comeback from a calf injury picked up against Saracens on December 30.

Mallinder said: “He’s close, he’s very close. The conditions of the pitches have not helped his recovery, but he’s running now and we see him coming back in the next week or two.”