Saturday 18 November 2017

Mallinder calls for Saints calm

Chris Hewett

Unlike Richard Cockerill and Brendan Venter, neither of whom always follow Kipling's advice by keeping their heads while all about them are losing theirs, Northampton coach Jim Mallinder is not noted for banging his fist on the table or having a go at match officials.

And win, lose or draw against Leinster in Saturday's Heineken Cup final, Mallinder won't be changing the habits of a coaching lifetime.

Predictably, in light of events during his side's English Premiership semi-final defeat at Leicester last weekend, he is growing just a little weary of those who fail to show a similar degree of restraint.

"It's no different to players losing control on the field," Mallinder said in typically measured tones when asked to reflect on the latest outbreak of pandemonium at Welford Road. "Passion is a part of sport, and one of the beauties of sport is controlling the emotion.

"Talking to the referee's assessor, shouting at the touch judge or gesturing at the ref doesn't make one little bit of difference as far as I'm concerned. The job is about giving clear directions, clear messages. That's how I go about my business.

"I don't want coaches to be shut away in a glass box. I like being in the atmosphere, being out there where everything is going on. Things happen in most games but when you go to Leicester in particular, it's a pressure cooker: people are so close and confined. I think it's up to the directors of rugby to take some responsibility."

This time last year, when his Saracens side visited Leicester in a late-season league game, Venter engaged in a frank exchange of views with a group of home supporters and was banned from attending the Premiership final.

Five days ago, it was the turn of Leicester head coach Cockerill to blow a gasket, and he was heavily criticised.

Mallinder is more unhappy, however, with the pugilistic excesses of Manu Tuilagi, whose combination punching on Chris Ashton yesterday earned the Leicester centre a five-week ban.

"You can't have that sort of thing going on, whether it's in a fourth-team game down at the old boys' club or in the semi-final of the Premiership, under the spotlight," said Mallinder.

The defeat at Welford Road hurt the Saints in more ways than one, but Mallinder considers his players to be in good shape ahead of Cardiff.

"It's a week too soon for Tom Wood, who isn't 100pc fit," he said of England's highly rated flanker, who recently underwent surgery to repair a hairline fracture of the leg.

"That's our only issue. Leinster are a quality side, they like to operate at a quick tempo and we know we'll be stretched at times.

"But unlike last week, we know this is our last game for a while. We can throw everything at it." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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