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Northampton captain Lewis Ludlam could be available for the key Gallagher Premiership clash against Newcastle on Saturday after missing England’s recent training camp due to injury.
Ludlam withdrew from the three-day gathering because of a thumb problem suffered in Saints’ 42-38 defeat at Saracens 10 days ago.
Victory for Northampton over the Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens would guarantee a play-off place ahead of Gloucester, their solitary rival for fourth spot.
Meanwhile, here's how the table sits heading into Round 26…
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 30, 2022
Leicester, Saracens and reigning Premiership champions Harlequins are already through to the June 11 semi-finals, with one position still to be claimed.
“I don’t think anybody has ruled themselves in or out yet,” Northampton rugby director Chris Boyd said.
“Lewis has got through a bit of training, and he could well come into consideration. We are not certain yet.”
Ludlam’s consistently outstanding form has been a major driver for Saints this term, and they arrive at the regular season’s final day in control of their own destiny.
Boyd added: “I think eight weeks ago we were sitting eighth, and we need to make sure we keep the momentum going.
“It has been a very unusual situation in that we have only played one game in a month. We are not the only side to do that.
“You would question whether the draw was properly worked out with so many sides getting such little rugby at this time of year. We have tried to cobble together the best programme we can to keep ourselves sharp.
“If we can secure a victory, we get ourselves a place in the play-offs. If we don’t, then we probably won’t.
“We have been playing knockout football for the last five games, really, and we are still alive. We’ve had a pretty good couple of months.”
Although Newcastle are seven places and 37 points behind Northampton, with nothing to play for on Saturday, Boyd anticipates a tough encounter in what will be Dean Richards’ final game as Falcons’ rugby director.
“He (Richards) has had a great run in the Premiership over a long period of time,” Boyd said.
“He has been a great servant of English rugby as a player and a coach. He’s a good man.
It all comes down to this.
Game week at the Gardens.
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) May 30, 2022
“They have an abrasive pack with a lot of runners in the back-line. They have got some dangerous backs, and we are certainly not going to take them lightly because we haven’t had a great track record against them.”
Boyd will head home to New Zealand whenever Saints’ season finishes, bringing down the curtain on a successful four-year reign.
“It’s trying to stay in the moment, really,” he added. “The important thing is that we get our preparation right.
“I’ve loved my time here and just want to try and finish it the right way.”