Mallinder: Lawes and Wood ready for England

Jim Mallinder watches on, Gloucester v Northampton, Aviva Premiership, Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, March 7, 2015 Getty Images

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder praised his team's second-half recovery after the reigning Aviva Premiership champions salvaged a thrilling 33-33 draw against Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Saints, beaten just three times in the league this season and now nine points clear of second-placed Exeter, recovered brilliantly from a 23-9 interval deficit.

Fly-half Stephen Myler, who kicked 18 points, converted number eight Samu Manoa's try deep into stoppage time, and Gloucester's hopes of a famous win were thwarted.

"I think we showed what a good side we are in that second half," Mallinder said. "We talked about getting our balance right, and we played some good rugby.

"We got two cracking tries out wide from [full-back] James Wilson, then to be able to go to the maul at the death and get that score just shows we have got threats all over the field.

"You can't come down to Kingsholm and play as we did in the first-half. They are a proud team and it is a proud rugby city, and we made some fundamental mistakes in terms of our game-management.

"But we addressed those, and once we got back to within seven points, we knew it was game-on again."

Some of Gloucester's rugby matched the glorious conditions following tries by wing Charlie Sharples, hooker Richard Hibbard and prop Dan Murphy, while Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw converted all three tries and kicked four penalties.

But Northampton, still comfortably top of the Premiership pile with just five regular-season games left, ultimately gained a share of the spoils.

And there was a boost for England head coach Stuart Lancaster as Saints forwards Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood both played the full 80 minutes, suggesting they are on course for Test recalls against Six Nations opponents Scotland at Twickenham next Saturday.

"I thought they played well," Mallinder added. "It was a fast. open game, and they kept going well for the 80 minutes. I think if Stuart wants them, they are ready to step up."

For Gloucester, though, it was a case of what might have been, as their hopes of a top-six Premiership finish and European Champions Cup qualification suffered a considerable dent.

"We played so well and gave ourselves a really good opportunity to beat the best team in England over the last couple of years, and then to have it taken away was hugely disappointing," Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys said.

"Northampton are never beaten. They have got unbelievable belief in what they do, and I thought they came out second-half as we knew they would and played very well.

"The first 40 minutes was better than we have played this season by quite a considerable margin. Every aspect of what we talked about we delivered.

"Last week [against Wasps], we were very disappointed with our energy and intensity, but both defensively and in attack today, we showed real ambition and real energy. People wanted the ball.

"When we sit down and review the game on Monday and Tuesday, we will be very happy with a huge part of our game, but we have still got to find a way to win. We've got to control territory and the pace of the game.

"It is part of the evolution of the team that if we want to compete at the top level, we've also got to take every opportunity that comes our way."