Harry Mallinder has told how he kissed goodbye to 15 months of injury hell with the most emotional haircut of his life.
A weekend which ended with him returning to action with Northampton’s opening try against Treviso, began in the barber’s chair staring at his long, flowing blond locks.
The day he did serious damage to his knee playing against Clermont he vowed not to cut his hair until he was fit to resume one of the most exciting young careers in the English game.
“When I got injured I knew I would be out for such a long time,” the former Junior World Cup-winning England captain revealed.
“The hair was a reminder, every single day, of how long it had been, how much hard work it had been and how testing it had been. It was a real big moment for me, cutting that off.”
Mallinder was destined for the top when captaining England to Under-20s World Championship glory in 2016, scoring 23 points in the final against Ireland.
A year later he graduated to Eddie Jones’ senior squad for the tour to Argentina and in 2018 was elevated into Jones' Six Nations elite.
But then came the injury, stopping his progress abruptly and leaving Mallinder fretting about the future.
“When you are out for 15 months you have moments where it is really tough,” he said. “There were a lot of hard days, a lot of sleepless nights – emotional, challenging times for me and my whole family.
“I have learnt the art of resilience. I have learnt a lot about myself and to have come through this and be back feeling better than ever is a huge achievement for me.”
Not a single day passed in which the son of ex-England fullback Jim did not visualise a try-scoring return to Saints colours, but the lay-off tested his resolve like never before.
As his hair grew he kept his chin up by putting his situation into perspective working with the Saints Foundation.
“When you see what some young people are going through in Northamptonshire you realise those are real tough times and those are the people who need the help,” he said.
“That really helped me. I could see past a bad day, a sore knee or whatever it was.”
So it was that a new decade dawned with the newly trimmed Mallinder powering over to score for Saints – just as he’d imagined it.
Teen sensation Louis Rees-Zammit has committed his future to Gloucester by signing a new three-year deal – and confirmed he does not want to play for England.
The 18-year-old wing, who has nine tries in as many starts in all competitions, has just been named Premiership Player of the Month.
He said: ”My dream is to represent Wales at an international level, and I just want to keep working hard to achieve this goal, along with helping Gloucester Rugby reach our ambitions for success.”
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