Eddie Jones says Saints star Tom Wood has reclaimed his place in England’s squad after shedding his “sense of entitlement”.
But the head coach hinted Teimana Harrison is the preferred option at openside for the Old Mutual Series that opens against South Africa next month.
Wood has been included among the 33 players named for the autumn internationals after profiting from the injury crisis that has seen six players ruled out of contention to fill a long-standing problem position.
The 29-year-old’s international career appeared to be over after revealing in January that Jones had told him he was “distinctly average” and lacked the world-class work-rate demanded of a six.
Jones disputes saying the remark and has since revised his opinion of Wood after sensing the Saints skipper had grown complacent during Stuart Lancaster’s regime.
“That’s not something I say,” Jones said. “He has obviously got a vivid memory. I might have said he had no standout parts of his game.
“The standout part of his game now is his work-rate. He has an incredible work-rate and he brings that to the table. I think he has gone back and looked at his game.
“Maybe he was comfortable, maybe he felt there was a sense of entitlement about him being in the England side.
“What I like about him - and we have had a number of other players do it - he has gone back and looked at himself and found ways to improve himself.
“His work off the ball is a lot better. He’s got a bit more dynamism to his ball-carrying which, previously, he didn’t have.
“His lineout work has always been good and obviously the injuries have presented an opportunity, so it’s a combination of him improving and the injuries.
“I’m looking for him to come in and make a difference in that back row; to be the work-rate-type player.
“He could be a six or seven. We’ll spin the dice.”
Harrison’s roller-coaster international career continues its unpredictable trajectory after Jones hinted that he is now in pole position to continue in the No.7 jersey.
A promising debut against Wales in May was followed by the ignominy of being replaced after only 31 minutes of the third Test against Australia in June for failing to bring enough physicality to the back row.
Jones stated last month that he is unsuitable for the role at this stage of his career, but his refusal to be subdued during Saints’ 41-7 rout at Castres has been noted.
“It’s his effectiveness as a ball-carrier, his effectiveness clearing out and his effectiveness in the tackle,” Jones said.
“He’s starting to stop people and he’s starting to put people back when he carries.
“I thought his game against Castres was a really good performance so he has certainly elevated himself greatly.”