Skipper Wood wants Saints to step it up in 2017

Tom Wood scored against Sale in Saints' final game of 2016 (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Tom Wood scored against Sale in Saints' final game of 2016 (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

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Tom Wood admits 2016 was a frustrating year for Saints.

But the skipper insists he and his team-mates have plenty in the tank as they bid to improve during the next 12 months.

Tom Wood was man of the match against Sale

Tom Wood was man of the match against Sale

Saints go to Gloucester this afternoon (kick-off 3pm) looking to improve their current standing of eighth in the Aviva Premiership.

They have won just five of their 11 league games so far and are bottom of their Champions Cup pool, although they do top their Anglo-Welsh Cup group.

Saints won 19 of their 36 matches during 2016, and when asked for his feelings on the calendar year, Wood said: “Probably a little bit of frustration and disappointment.

“The frustrating thing is that we’ve got so much quality here and we haven’t quite clicked and put it all together for a while.

“It’s not all been bad, but we have lacked that real consistency and that real top-flight ambition.

“Other teams seem to have moved on a little bit and we’re fighting tooth and nail to stay in the fight.

“There are definitely things to improve.”

Saints ended 2016 on a positive note as they comfortably overcame Sale Sharks 24-5 at Franklin’s Gardens.

They had targeted that match, today’s trip to Kingsholm and next Saturday’s home clash with Bristol as must-win matches in the bid to get back in the Premiership hunt.

And Wood said: “These three games are really crucial for us.

“We’ve talked about really targeting these three before the European break and the internationals go away again.

“It’s a great chance for us to re-establish ourselves, build some momentum and then we’re in a much better place.

“We have to really say goodbye to the European Champions Cup but we won’t throw the games because we can’t do that.

“It’s a chance to mix the team up and see other people play, give experience to other guys and really prioritise the league as our main competition to get back in the fight there.

“Everything looks very different if we win these three games.

“If we manage to pick up bonus points along the way, we’re right in the hunt. That’s where all our energy is going at the minute.”

Wood was Saints’ star man again Sale, scooping the man of the match award for a display that included his first try of the campaign.

But he has revealed how he has been battling illness during the past couple of weeks.

“Personally, I’ve been struggling with all sorts of illnesses,” he said.

“I’ve had all sorts of gunk on my chest and I feel like I’ve been coughing up a lung most of the time.

“I was in the changing room having the menthol crystal inhalatation stuff to clear my throat and nose at half-time against Sale.

“I know there’s a few of us in the same boat - Kieran Brookes has been struggling a bit. It’s just winter blues really.

“You’re always in close quarters with the lads so once one person gets it, the others get it. I’m sure it’s the same for most teams.”

Saints have enjoyed four days’ extra rest, with today’s opponents Gloucester having faced Harlequins at Twickenham on Tuesday.

And when asked about the clash with the Cherry and Whites, Wood said: “It’s a big challenge.

“I don’t envy them with their Christmas schedule, playing on the Tuesday and then the Sunday. It’s a bit all over the shop for them.

“They’re proud, they will be at home and it will be a big atmosphere on New Year’s Day for them.

“They’ve got a bit of work to do to get back up at the right end of the table, so we won’t take them lightly.

“We know what threats they’ve got, particularly in their back line, with some electric counter-attackers, guys who if you’re loose with the ball, can really punish you.

“We’re very aware of the threats and they’ve got big ball carriers up front, with Ben Morgan, Richard Hibbard and those guys.

“We know what they will bring, just as they did here in the autumn.

“They were very frontline and confrontational up front so we know what the challenge is and we’ll look forward to it and there’s a lot more to come from us.”