Six Nations: Jim Mallinder welcomes exodus of players to England

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder says losing eight players to England is a "massive compliment".

Saints have contributed a quarter of the talent in Stuart Lancaster's Six Nations squad, leaving Mallinder short of resources in February and March.

"If you were being really selfish you wouldn't want to lose any," he told BBC Look East.

"But if you were thinking like that you would go and sign a squad full of overseas players."

Uncapped trio Calum Clark, Phil Dowson and Lee Dickson, plus Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden have all been included in England's 32-man Elite Player Squad.

Mallinder's club has also seen Ryan Lamb and Paul Doran-Jones being selected for England Saxons.

"We take it as a massive compliment and not just me," added Mallinder.

"So do the coaching staff, the performance staff, the fitness and conditioning staff, the board and everybody who works within the club. They deserve a lot of credit for these lads getting selected.

"We want players to be the best they possibly can. We are an English club so we want generally English players.

"I think an English-first policy has got to help England. I'm sure they'd like all English teams to be full of English players but that's not the way it is.

"We've not brought anybody here who's an international player, they've all developed themselves and worked hard.

"Our challenge now is to make sure the other players are good enough, skilled enough and have played enough game time for when the others disappear."

Dickson is one of three Saints to receive his first England call-up after an impressive season for the Franklin's Gardens side.

"People say its been a long time coming but I've just had to keep my head down, keep playing well here, and that's paid off," said the 26-year-old scrum-half.

"I'm going there to be myself and hopefully I can show what I'm like at the next step up."