Cohen prepared to be a martyr to Saints' cause

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The Independent Online

Ben Cohen has pledged his future to Northampton, regardless of whether the Zurich Premiership's bottom side manage to escape relegation.

Ben Cohen has pledged his future to Northampton, regardless of whether the Zurich Premiership's bottom side manage to escape relegation.

Even though his England career is currently on hold, and unlikely to be revived if Saints go down, the 26-year-old World Cup winner has given his team-mates a major fillip in advance of this afternoon's meeting with Wasps at the Causeway Stadium. "If we did go down, I would definitely go down too," said Cohen, who plays on the left wing today. "I'd want to bring the club back up. But until then we'll be doing our utmost to stay up."

Saints also welcome back the England hooker Steve Thompson and Scotland prop Tom Smith, while Bruce Reihana, who has rejected a contract offer from his native New Zealand to stay at Northampton, features at full-back. Wasps hand a debut to Paul Sackey, the wing recruited last week from London Irish, while the England trio of Josh Lewsey, Matt Dawson and Joe Worsley also start.

Sackey's former club tackle Saracens at Vicarage Road today having dropped into the danger zone following a string of defeats. "Two bonus points from our last five matches is an unsatisfactory return for all the hard work put in, not just by the squad but by everyone at the club," said the Exiles' coach Gary Gold.

Saracens, unbeaten in their last four Premiership games, are unchanged while Irish have drafted in Justin Bishop for Sackey and recalled the Scotland hooker Robbie Russell to face his former club.

The England captain Jason Robinson has defended his international and club colleague Charlie Hodgson, whose missed kicks were blamed by many critics for last Sunday's Six Nations defeat by France. Hodgson landed three penalties and a conversion in Sale's 19-10 home win over Leeds on Friday night, after which Robinson said: "Everything has been blown out of all proportion with Charlie. All he's done is miss a few kicks and all of a sudden he's a villain. Charlie's a very talented player and he's one of the best 10s in the country, if not the world. He missed a couple of kicks last week but tonight he's shown just how good he is."

Andy Keast, fresh from Worcester's success over relegation rivals Harlequins yesterday, has added his voice to the claims of prop Chris Horsman to take over the England tight-head spot from the injured Phil Vickery. "In May Chris becomes qualified for Wales," the Worcester coach said. "If they don't want him to slip through the net England had better move quickly."

The National League One leaders Exeter, thought to be implacably opposed to a £7m plot allegedly hatched by Premier-ship clubs to ring-fence themselves against relegation, won 36-25 at bottom club Orrell yesterday. Bristol kept up the pressure with a 23-0 victory at Pertemps Bees.

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