Mallinder hopeful on Hartley injury, Cockerill warns England over Tuilagi


Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder does not expect Dylan Hartley's participation in the Six Nations to be jeopardised by the injury that forced him to miss his club's agonising defeat to Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

Hartley is thought to be a frontrunner for the England captaincy under new head coach Eddie Jones, but sat out the latest round of Premiership action with a rib problem.

Mallinder played down the severity of the hooker's injury after seeing his side lose 30-27 courtesy of a last-gasp Freddie Burns penalty, but acknowledged Hartley faces a battle to regain a starting place due to Mike Haywood's form.

"Dylan played a bit during the week and we hoped he would be able to take his place on the bench, but his ribs were too sore," the Saints chief is quoted as saying by The Guardian.

"I do not think he will be out for a long time, but the problem with this type of injury for a front rower is scrummaging and you are never sure how it will affect you.

"I hope Dylan will be available next weekend, but selection is another matter with Mikey Haywood in outstanding form."

Saturday's match at Welford Road saw Manu Tuilagi return to competitive action as a substitute after 15 months out with a serious groin injury.

However, Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill believes it is too early for the powerful centre to be considered for England's Six Nations campaign, which begins on February 6.

"It was his first appearance for 15 months and he is remembering how to play rugby again," said Cockerill of Tuilagi.

"We need to get him fit and if he suffers no reaction, he will play again next week and we will build his fitness up gradually.

"It is premature to discuss Manu playing for England before we know that he is totally over his groin injury. At this point I am not sure that Manu is ready to play Test rugby.

"I will speak to Eddie [Jones] in the next few days and the start of the Six Nations is unrealistic for Manu because we need to make sure he is 100 per cent right."