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Priestland in for Scarlets as Saints fend off Mallinder advances

| 17.11.2011

It hasn’t been the best of weeks for Northampton Saints.

It began with a heartbreaking 23-21 defeat against Munster in the Heineken Cup thanks to an injury-time drop goal from Ronan O’Gara after an incredible 41-phase move, and it could end with them losing their coach.

Following Martin Johnson’s decision to quit as head coach of England on Wednesday, speculation has been rife as to who will take over and one name keeps cropping up – Jim Mallinder.

World Cup winner, Matt Dawson, has endorsed Mallinder for the role and he appears to be a popular choice.

He is currently the 2/1 favourite for the job but Northampton are determined to hang on to their man.

Northampton chairman, Leon Barwell, said: “Clearly, Jim is a first-class coach and is bound to be in the running for the England job.

“We will just have to deal with it when and if it materialises.

“But I would try to persuade him to stay. It is a big job for anybody to take on, and we would clearly want him to stay here and continue the excellent work he is doing at Saints.”

He won’t be gone before Northampton’s Heineken Cup clash against the Scarlets this Saturday though and he should be able to pick his troops up following a tumultuous week.

The Scarlets head into the game on the back of a convincing win over Castres in their opening Pool 1 game and will start with Rhys Priestland at fly-half for the clash.

Priestland impressed at the World Cup for Wales and has been preferred to the experienced Stephen Jones for this crucial game.

However, while they may have had a disappointing week, Northampton should still have enough to overcome the Welshmen.

The Saints – who were Heineken Cup runners-up last term – can be backed at 1/7 to get the victory and at 10/11 to win with a 12 point handicap.



Richard Anderson