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Mallinder hails Hartley's form

England star Dylan Hartley will lead Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton into battle against Saracens on Sunday on the back of what Saints boss Jim Mallinder hailed as an "immense" performance.

Hooker Hartley's display in the 31-10 destruction of Bath last week proved a critical factor behind Saints preserving their 100% league record this season.

"It was a big challenge laid down last week against Bath," said Mallinder. "And I thought Dylan, in the middle of that, was immense. Some of his ball-carrying was fantastic - the pace he was putting on the ball was great to see."

Saracens defeated Saints three times in Premiership combat last term. That hat-trick of wins included a play-off semi-final victory at Franklin's Gardens four months ago, which booked Saracens a Twickenham appointment with Leicester.

"It (play-off defeat) is a massive motivation for us," added Mallinder.

"Obviously, we are in a new season and we have moved on, but you have to learn from the big games and use the experience in the future.

"Both ourselves and Saracens have brought in players, but the core squads are still in place at both clubs and we have both started the season well.

"Saracens have a good team that will challenge us across the field.

"However, we have generated some good momentum in the past month and everyone in the squad will be putting in a massive effort on Sunday to try and continue this."

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From Belfast Telegraph