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Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley in contention to face Saracens in Champions Cup

Published 06/04/2016

Dylan Hartley has not played since captaining England in France
Dylan Hartley has not played since captaining England in France

Dylan Hartley could make an earlier than expected return from concussion in time for Northampton's Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens on Saturday.

England's Grand Slam-winning captain was knocked unconscious against France in the final match of the RBS 6 Nations last month and has been following return to play protocols since.

It was feared the 30-year-old hooker could miss the remainder of the season, but director of rugby Jim Mallinder has revealed he is in contention for the trip to Allianz Park.

Northampton are also monitoring the fitness of centre Luther Burrell, scrum-half Lee Dickson and prop Kieran Brookes, who are also hoping to recover from concussion in time.

"Dylan is in the system and has actually been running today. Without a doubt it would be a boost if he's back. Any of those senior players you want available," Mallinder said.

"When you play Saracens you need as many of your top players as possible, but we are fortunate that we have players to come in like Mike Haywood, who has played a lot of big games now.

"We've got the four head injuries and they're all going through their return to play protocols, so we don't know how that will pan out.

"They could all be back, or none of them could be back. They've got to go through all the stages of the return to play protocols. They're all at different stages of that path at the moment.

"It makes preparations very difficult, but all you can do is train with the people you've got and that's what we've been doing."

Despite their strong recent record in the fixture consisting of three wins in four matches, Northampton's injury woes have taken some of the shine off Saturday's all-Premiership European showdown.

"It was a brutal game against Wasps on Sunday and we've picked up quite a few knocks to people like Sam Dickinson and Jon Fisher, so we'll see how they go," Mallinder said.

"We're having a very quiet week, resting and rehabilitating the players, while Saracens have had the advantage of two days extra in terms of their turnaround having played against Bath on Friday night.

"We're having to look after the players but we know that by Saturday we'll have a competitive team out."

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