London Irish 20-26 Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership, April 23
Mallinder plays down Foden game time
April 23, 2011
Northampton's Stephen Myler lines up a kick at goal during his side's victory at the Madejski Stadium © Getty Images
Northampton coach Jim Mallinder brushed aside questions over England fullback Ben Foden exceeding the elite player game time quota following his side's 26-20 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
Under the terms of the Elite Player Squad (EPS) agreement with the Rugby Football Union, senior England players cannot play more than 160 minutes in the current block of three Premiership games. As a result, Foden should have only played a maximum of 67 minutes against Irish but completed the match.
Mallinder, whose side remain on course for the play-offs, admitted it had been an oversight but was not too concerned about any implications. "I forgot, I don't see it as an issue; I hope a sensible view will be taken. We withdrew players from playing at Gloucester on Tuesday and we've done less training this week."
It is understood that the RFU are comfortable with Foden exceeding 160 minutes of action and they insist that figure is only a guideline while London Irish boss Toby Booth also refused to dwell on the issue. "I'm sure the authorities will have a look at it but it's not the reason we lost the game," he said.
Northampton were 23-6 up with 14 minutes to go but they were stunned by a sudden Irish revival and ultimately had to rely on a try-saving tackle by two-try hero Chris Ashton on Topsy Ojo to stop a potential victory-clinching score for Irish. Ashton referred to Northampton's European Cup semi-final against Perpignan at Milton Keynes when he said, "We played very well but then we pulled up thinking about next week's game against Perpignan but fortunately we hung on."
Mallinder added, "Perpignan have rested players this weekend so they are targeting a European Cup win. We shouldn't have had to play three games this week as going to Gloucester with a weakened side because of an unfit pitch should not be allowed to happen as it affects the integrity of the competition [the Premiership]. We should have gone to Gloucester on Boxing Day [the match was postponed due to adverse weather conditions] with a full side."
But Mallinder was happy about his side's performance against Irish. "We showed good control in the game but a couple of defensive lapses in the second half nearly cost us but I'm extremely pleased we have doubled them."
Booth praised Ashton for his contribution to the victory. "We gave away two tries from turnovers with the man who will get all the headlines in the morning [Ashton] clinically finishing them off.
"At the end he comes over from the opposite wing to make a try-saving tackle on Topsy. I'm really disappointed but I'm proud of the way that we got back into the contest."
Ashton's two tries and 16 points from Stephen Myler proved decisive for Northampton. Richard Thorpe and Seilala Mapusua touched down for the home side with Tom Homer kicking two conversions and two penalties.
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