Northampton unhappy over RFU approach to Alex King
Northampton have accused the Rugby Football Union of making a clandestine approach for their assistant coach Alex King and could make an official complaint.
Director of rugby Jim Mallinder insists Saints have been "kept in the dark" since it emerged that new England boss Eddie Jones has identified King as the final addition to his backroom staff following the appointments of Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard.
Jones has met with King but Mallinder is unaware of the contents of their conversation and has received no contact from the RFU over his assistant's future.
Mallinder insists the uncertainty over King was a distraction heading into the 9-9 Champions Cup draw with Racing 92 at Franklin's Gardens.
"As a club, we've had no official contact at all so we're in the dark. As a club we've had no formal approach. It's disappointing," Mallinder said.
"Alex King is a key part of our coaching staff. We're in a vital part of the season building up to a massive game in Racing.
"What you don't want to hear by reading in the press or being told is that somebody is talking to one of your coaches.
"I wouldn't like it if somebody I knew was talking to one of our players from another club and that's what's happened."
When asked if Northampton would be making a complaint, Mallinder replied: "All I can say is that it's not helped our preparation this week. We'll see where we go from there.
"I'd have thought that if an organisation wants to speak to one of your employees then what you do is contact the club and do it officially.
"That's what would happen in the Premiership if we wanted to speak to another player or coach.
"We don't want to talk about compensation because we don't know if Alex will be their new backs coach or not. It's very early to discuss that.
"Alex has told me that he's met Eddie and that's all that I know. It's certainly not ideal."
Dylan Hartley has emerged as the favourite to captain England into the RBS 6 Nations and the hooker watched the draw with Racing from the stands as he continues his recovery from the concussion that has kept him out since November 7.
Mallinder was reluctant to endorse Hartley's credentials for replacing Chris Robshaw, instead focusing on the combative front row's immediate goals for Northampton.
"It's speculation. It's chat. Dylan's leadership capabilities are not an issue. The issue for Dylan is to get back playing for Northampton Saints," Mallinder said.
"That's the only thing he's got on his mind. He's been out for a few weeks now, but he's close and back in training.
"I don't know where the names have come from, but he's an obvious candidate. He's the most experienced rugby player in terms of caps. He's got experience of captaining Northampton, so it comes as no surprise."
Prop Kieran Brookes twisted his knee in the first half but the injury is not thought to be serious. Tom Wood is expected to return in the next week or two from his shoulder problem.