Northampton chairman will fight to keep Jim Mallinder from England job
Northampton chairman Leon Barwell says he will fight to keep Jim Mallinder at Saints if England try to recruit him.
Rugby director Mallinder is the current favourite to replace Martin Johnson as England manager after his resignation.
Mallinder has previously coached with England Saxons and England Under-21s but is under contract with Saints until the end of next season.
"Clearly I would not want him to leave - I would try to persuade him to stay," Barwell told BBC Look East.
"No formal approach has been made. I'm aware Jim is a leading candidate for England. He's a class act.
"But I'm confident he wouldn't let it distract him from doing his job with the Saints or let it compromise his work here.
"The RFU process is unclear. But we would be able to work together over this. I am realistic."
Former Northampton and England winger Jon Sleighthome believes Mallinder is the right man to succeed Johnson.
Sleighthome told BBC Sport: "Mallinder has already gone on record to say he'd be interested.
"Before Northampton he was coach of England Saxons, and they went unbeaten for a long time, so he's used to coaching in an environment where he only gets his hands on players every once in a while.
"He's turned Northampton around to one of the most consistent sides and he's probably got the best CV of domestic coaches.
"Jim would say it's a challenge I want to get stuck into."
Mallinder joined Northampton in 2007 and has led the club to promotion to the Premiership, wins in the European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup finals, two Premiership semi-finals and last season's Heineken Cup final.
The 45-year-old Yorkshireman's Saxons reign produced 15 wins in his 16 games and he also led the under-21 side to success in the Six Nations.
"Clearly, Jim is a first-class coach and is bound to be in the running for the England job," Barwell told the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. "We will just have to deal with it as to when and if it materialises.
"It is a big job for anybody to take on, and we would clearly want him to stay here and continue the excellent work he is doing at Saints.
"Jim and I are in very close contact, and as events unfold we will talk about it and make the right decision."
Former Italy and South Africa coach Nick Mallett has ruled himself out as a replacement for Johnson, who quit after three and a half years as England manager, but Australian Eddie Jones has expressed an interest in the job.
"At the moment the RFU is still reviewing events and it is not clear what is going to take place," said Barwell. "The process cannot begin until a structure is sorted out, and we will find out that within the next few days and weeks.
"Jim is an excellent coach, and I think that whatever he puts his mind to he has got that determination to succeed."