Mallinder shrugs off Foden issue
Northampton coach Jim Mallinder brushed aside questions over England full-back Ben Foden playing the whole of their 26-20 win over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium which virtually sealed their Aviva Premiership play-off spot.
Rugby Football Union regulations stipulate Foden should only play a maximum of 67 minutes but despite him playing the whole game Mallinder seemed unconcerned. Under the Elite Player Agreement Northampton's England players were limited to the number of club minutes they could play in the a hectic schedule of three games in eight days.
Foden's full game against London Irish took him over that quota and Mallinder admitted: "I forgot, I don't see it as an issue; I hope a sensible view will be taken. We withdrew players from playing at Gloucester on Tuesday and we've done less training this week."
Toby Booth, his Irish counterpart, said: "I'm sure the authorities will have a look at it but it's not the reason we lost the game."
Northampton were 23-6 up with 14 minutes to go but they were stunned by a sudden Irish revival and ultimately had to rely on a try-saving tackle by two-try hero Chris Ashton on Topsy Ojo to stop a potential victory-clinching score for Irish.
Ashton referred to Northampton's European Cup semi-final against Perpignan at Milton Keynes when he said: "We played very well but then we pulled up thinking about next week's game against Perpignan but fortunately we hung on."
Mallinder added: "Perpignan have rested players this weekend so they are targeting a European Cup win.
"We shouldn't have had to play three games this week as going to Gloucester with a weakened side because of an unfit pitch should not be allowed to happen as it affects the integrity of the competition (the Premiership).
"We should have gone to Gloucester on Boxing Day (the match was postponed due to adverse weather conditions) with a full side."