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Under-strength Saints focused on Bath

Northampton will aim to recover quickly from a major double suspension blow when they continue their quest to reach the Aviva Premiership play-offs.

Saints visit Bath knowing they cannot afford to be distracted by losing captain Dylan Hartley and his England elite squad colleague Calum Clark for eight and 32 weeks respectively.

"It has been easy to concentrate on this weekend because it is a massive game for us," Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder said. "If we don't concentrate then we will go down to Bath and get beaten. But we've had our focus on Saturday's game, the lads have trained well and we are looking forward to the challenge."

He added: "We've got a good side for the game, but so do they. They've lost a number of players through injury, but so have we, so it's going to be a tough match."

Hartley will not play club rugby again this season unless Northampton reach the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 26.

Flanker Clark, though, is sidelined until early November, the result of a 32-week suspension imposed by Rugby Football Union disciplinary chiefs following an act of foul play during a showpiece cup final 12 days ago.

Saints could appeal both decisions, and they have already stated that Clark's ban has left them "bound to consider the merits of an appeal".

Clark, 22, was cited after an incident during Northampton's LV= Cup final defeat against Leicester and then suspended indefinitely by his club.

Clark, who captained Saints in the final, was reported for an act contrary to good sportsmanship, allegedly hyperextending Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins' right arm. It left Hawkins with a broken elbow and requiring surgery, sidelining him for the rest of this season.

Saints, though, must now seek a victory at the Recreation Ground that would keep them in the play-off zone ahead of their three final regular season fixtures against Leicester, Exeter and Worcester.


From Belfast Telegraph