Dylan Hartley might yet be forced to sit out the visit of Newcastle Falcons to Franklin’s Gardens, but the captain believes if that is the case then Northampton Saints will be in safe hands after what he saw while on international duty.
A fine autumn international series for Hartley had a painful end to it as he was stretchered off after 50 minutes in the clash with New Zealand with a bruised lung.
And the injury could yet keep him out of action this Saturday as Newcastle come to town, looking to put an end to Saints’ five-match winning run in all competitions.
Two of these came in the LV= Cup as Gloucester Rugby and London Irish were put to the sword.
And if he is forced to sit out the Falcons’ visit, Hartley saw enough from those Saints who got their LV= Cup campaign off to a flying start to know that Northampton have the strength in depth to cope.
“I think, especially being involved as a captain, seeing the squad and trying to keep the squad motivated moving forward and trying to buy into the bigger picture of a squad kind of game, it is so important and having these LV= Cup games for development purposes and game time for a lot of these players is brilliant,” Hartley said.
“We have seen our senior academy products not just playing in these games but performing in these games and being stars so our squad is in a very good place at the moment, in the LV= Cup and Aviva Premiership.
“We have another two big weeks against Newcastle and Worcester and we need some more big performances and if we win those games then we might have to keep the moustaches.
”And for some of those young guys they are putting their hand up not only for LV= Cup games but if they perform in those games then they are holding their hands up for Premiership and Heineken Cup.”
The Saints have been defeated only once at Franklin's Gardens in any tournament since February: this an 8-36 loss at the hands of Leicester Tigers in the Aviva Premiership on March 30.
However Newcastle Falcons have won two of their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, although they will travel to Northampton fully aware that the Saints have won the last six encounters between the two sides.
But Newcastle centre Adam Powell insists he is taking no notice of the daunting-looking history books.
“Franklin’s Gardens is a lovely place to go and play your rugby, and it’s probably one of the best grounds in the league with a great surface and a great crowd,” said Powell.
“We know it’s going to be an extremely tough challenge, but it’s one that I know the boys are relishing.
“It’s a game that we look forward to, and like I said before the Saracens game, this what playing in the Premiership is all about – playing against top class opposition at fantastic venues.”
Referee: Dean Richards (59th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Kevin Stewart & Ashley Rowden. TMO: Rowan Kitt.