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Mallinder: Call-ups deserved but chances now there for others to shine

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The selection of eight players - Chris Ashton, Calum Clark, Lee Dickson, Phil Dowson, Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood - represents a club record in the professional era, with two more, Paul Doran Jones and Ryan Lamb, having been picked in the England Saxons squad.

However club rugby continues during the Six Nations period, with the Saints having games against Bath and London Wasps in the LV= Cup and Gloucester, Sale, London Irish and Saracens in Aviva Premiership Rugby, and Mallinder told SaintsTV at today's media session that it was time for every player at Franklin's Gardens to step up and meet the challenges in front of them.


"To have 10 people - including eight out of the 32-man England squad, or 25 percent - is tremendous," the Saints boss said. "It's credit to all of those players, who have worked hard and justified their selection.


"It's also a massive opportunity for the rest of our squad. With the 10 players away there are going to be opportunities for other players, and it's why we've tried to put together a strong squad. We need those players to come through in some tough games. Three of our Aviva Premiership Rugby matches will be away from home, plus we have the LV= Cup as well, so we've got a lot to play for.


"Hopefully these lads will step up and rise to the challenge."


For Dickson the selection is his first to the England Senior Squad. But while he is delighted by the news he says that his focus remains firmly on the Saints during the next two Heineken Cup games against the Scarlets and Munster.


"I can't really put what I'm feeling into words," he said. "It's what every rugby player wants to do. You want to play for your country and I've got the opportunity to do that. I know I've got to train well to get into the actual matchday 22, but by being one step closer by getting into the Elite Player Squad it's great news for me. I'm really looking forward to it.


"It's a boost to get the news, but we've got to concentrate on our next two massive matches in the Heineken Cup for the Saints. They're key to us and what our chat's all going to be about. Today is about the England stuff but tomorrow we're all about the Saints."


Dowson said that the 10 players chosen for England representation now had to use the boost given to them as individuals to the good of the Saints team as a whole over the next fortnight.


"I'm delighted," he said. "There are some great players in the squad and lots of representatives from the Saints. Individually it's a great pick-me-up but there's lots of guys like Ryan Lamb and Paul Doran Jones in the Saxons who are pushing on, and we need to take that form and motivation that we've had into our Heineken Cup matches over the next couple of weeks."