- Harry Mallinder previews this weekend's match
- 19-year-old describes match-winning emotions
Harry Mallinder stole the headlines last weekend with a match-winning try in the Champions Cup on his European debut. The 19-year-old replaced injured Tom Collins in the 26th minute and with two minutes left on the clock he pounced on a Stephen Myler cross-field kick to score the winning try.
“Obviously there was huge emotion because we needed a win to stay alive in the competition,” said Mallinder as he drove home from training one afternoon. “And to go over at the end was just an unbelievable feeling. At the end my Dad was pleased for me and he shook my hand and I saw a rare smile.
“I went straight home and took the vase that I got for man-of-the-match to my mum because I smashed her favourite one literally two days before the game so I thought I owed it to her.”
This Saturday Saints will travel to South Wales to face Scarlets in a must win match to secure a top three runners-up spot in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.
The versatile Mallinder will start at inside centre in the pivotal clash. “It’ll be a huge challenge. Scarlets are a very good team.
"We know they like to play rugby and they had a hard loss last week so they’re going to want a reaction even though they’re out of the competition. Scarlets have some quality players and the Champions Cup is definitely the highest level of rugby I’ve played so far.”
In less than two years, Mallinder has gone from playing at Rugby School to lining up alongside George North, Luther Burrell, Ben Foden and other seasoned internationals.
“At first it was a bit of an overwhelming experience but now I’ve been around these guys for a couple of years, they’re my teammates and friends off the pitch.
"More than anything it makes your job a lot easier because at school you were maybe trying to over-compensate and work too hard to do other people’s jobs for them but now I’m around the very best players so all I need to focus on is my own game and how I can help my team.”
The 6ft 4" back is the son of former Sale Sharks and England full back, Jim Mallinder, who is also Director of Rugby at Northampton.
“Some people previously questioned our relationship but now that I’ve been involved in the set up for a while I think I’ve almost earned my way to where I am at the moment.
"It can be frustrating at times because he’s sometimes a bit harder on me than anyone else. It is what it is, he’s my coach but he’s also my dad.”
Mallinder was recently named in the England U20 Elite Player Squad for the Six Nations but was held back from the January camp for commitments to Saints.
“December camp was great because there was a new group of lads. I was involved last year but unfortunately due to injuries I wasn’t able to play in the games.
"I find it refreshing to go away to camps and do something a bit different and although it’s a shame I’m not there this week, it would be great for the lads to carry the momentum through to the first game against Scotland in a few weeks."
Earlier this month the U20s welcomed Rory Teague as Attack and Backs coach ahead of the Six Nations next month.
“I’ve met Rory once and he seems like a really nice guy. I’m sure he’ll add a few fresh ideas with Jon Callard and all of the coaches and support staff are in place and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
“The pride and experiences you get from playing for your country are special. I haven’t been able to do it for a couple of years but there’s no better feeling than going out onto a pitch, wearing the shirt and singing the national anthem in the Six Nations.”
If Mallinder ends up collecting another vase for his mother's collection, you fancy Saints may well be lining up in the quarter-finals.