Jim Mallinder: Northampton Saints sack director of rugby

Jim Mallinder with the Premiership trophy
Jim Mallinder (second left) led Saints to the Premiership title in 2014, one year on from losing in the final to Leicester

Jim Mallinder has been sacked by Northampton Saints after more than 10 years as the club's director of rugby.

Saints, Premiership champions in 2014, are currently 10th and on the brink of elimination from the European Champions Cup after Saturday's defeat by Ospreys.

The 51-year-old, who was appointed in June 2007, signed a new five-year deal after their top-flight triumph.

"The board and major shareholders felt that the time was right for some change," said chairman John White.

"This is not a decision that has been taken lightly. Jim has been an outstanding director of rugby.

"We have been very lucky to have him at Franklin's Gardens and he will always be a part of the Saints family."

Attack coach Alan Dickens will take over as interim head coach while Northampton embark upon "an extensive search to find a world-class director of rugby".

Former Sale full-back Mallinder took over at Franklin's Gardens following spells as head coach with both the Sharks and England Saxons.

He twice guided Saints to the European Challenge Cup, in 2009 and 2014, as well as the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2010.

But, despite topping the Premiership table one year on from their 2014 double, the club went on to lose in the semi-finals and have failed to lift another major trophy since.

Having had to rely on a play-off to qualify for this season's Champions Cup, they have endured another difficult campaign in Europe and are bottom of their pool after three defeats from three.

Mallinder was the longest-serving boss in the Premiership prior to his dismissal.

'Stagnation has led to this point'

Dylan Hartley (left) and Alex Corbisiero
Alex Corbisiero (right) played alongside England captain Dylan Hartley during his time at Northampton

Former Lions and England prop Alex Corbisiero featured prominently in Saints' Premiership-winning campaign three years ago but told BBC Sport change at Franklin's Gardens was long overdue.

"We reached a pinnacle in the domestic game in 2014 but unfortunately there hasn't been a lot of real progression or change or evolution since then," said the 29-year-old.

"I think the stagnation and the lack of change has probably led to this point now.

"I'm sad to see it happen but at the same time I wouldn't have been surprised if this happened a year ago."

Corbisiero, who left Northampton in January 2016 after having an operation on a knee injury, also lifted the European Challenge Cup while playing under Mallinder.

"If you're going to be brutally honest I think the players will be looking for more ideas and development from a coaching side which maybe, from speaking to some of the guys, they haven't felt they've had for a while," he added.

"It's not like there's a long list of candidates who are fully available to come in right now. Whether or not they could've waited until the end of the season and done a wholesale change - that is probably a decision people there weighed with."

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter Chris Jones

Northampton fans will reflect fondly on Mallinder's decade at the top at Franklin's Gardens, with a European Challenge Cup and Premiership title double in 2014 a clear highlight.

But the club has under-performed for the past couple of seasons, with Saturday's defeat by the Ospreys the final straw. And, while the Northampton board have made the decision to sack Mallinder, I understand the Saints players had somewhat lost faith in the coaching staff as a whole.

The likes of Alan Dickens, Dorian West and Mark Hopley remain in situ for now, but the incoming director of rugby may look to freshen up the backroom team as well, because there is a feeling among club insiders that Mallinder has carried the can for the failings of the coaches as a collective.

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