Wilson so happy to be a fans’ favourite at Saints

James Wilson made his return to first-team action last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

James Wilson made his return to first-team action last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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One of the biggest cheers at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend was reserved for the introduction of one of Saints’ most popular squad members.

When James Wilson emerged from the bench during the second half, there was a warm welcome from around the ground.

“It was fantastic,” said the Kiwi. “I was pretty stoked.

“It was unexpected, but it was really nice.

“It felt good to be appreciated the way they appreciate me out there. It was great.”

Since moving to Saints in 2012 from French club Bourgoin, Wilson has established himself as a firm fans’ favourite.

But just why does the man himself feel he is so revered at Northampton?

“I don’t know actually,” Wilson said, smiling. “You might have to ask those guys (the supporters).

“I just try to give as much of my time to the fans who come out and watch as possible.

“If they have any questions, I try to answer them.”

Saints’ fans’ fondness for Wilson possibly stems from the fact that he is so adept in so many positions on the rugby field.

He can play fly-half, centre, full-back and wing, where he came on to replace Ken Pisi last weekend.

And he said: “Wing is a bit different but I have played a few games there and I’m getting more and more used to it.

“Just put me anywhere, mate. I’ll run around and do my best.”

Wilson is clearly just happy to be back, and his team-mates will be delighted to see the keen skateboarder gliding back into training at the Gardens on a daily basis.

“I just like skating around,” he said. “You’ll see me cruising around.

“Some of the lads like to bike, but it’s getting quite cold now, so they’ll probably put them away.”

Wilson’s happiness at being back in the first-team picture is accentuated by how and when his most recent injury occurred.

He was forced off during the formative stages of the first pre-season friendly, the Vaquerin Challenge match against Castres in Camares, and only recently returned to action, in the Wanderers’ win against Wasps.

He put in an impressive performance in that game, playing the full 80 minutes and scoring a try.

And Wilson said: “You get injured in something that doesn’t have much meaning to it, it’s a pre-season game and you want to get a runaround, but I got injured inside 10 minutes so it was a bit of a waste.

“You do all this training and then you have your weekends off when you want to be out there playing some rugby.

“It happened in the first pre-season game, so I missed a couple more friendlies and the start of the season.

“I just overstretched my ankle ligaments. It was similar to JJ’s (Hanrahan) but he actually broke a bone in his foot.

“I was pretty lucky to only be out for six weeks and then it was good to get some game time for the Wanderers.

“I was confident being out there and it was good to get 80 minutes.”

Wilson would now love a full 80 minutes for the first team, but he is more than happy with how his brief cameo went last weekend.

Stephen Myler’s last-gasp penalty secured a nail-biting 16-14 win against Montpellier to get Saints’ Champions Cup campaign up and running.

And now they head to Castres looking to make it two wins from as many matches in Europe this season.

“It was a bit of a tough one, messy throughout, but to get that win in those circumstances - we hadn’t had the best start and we lost Alex (King) as well - was pleasing.

“We wanted to put a performance in that we were proud of, and we did.

“Getting that win was massive.

“Now we just need to stick to our guns because playing in France in Europe is a big thing.

“Hopefully we can play a bit better than we did last weekend and take something from this weekend.”

If Saints manage to win again, the travelling fans are likely to see another one of Wilson’s trademark ‘dab’ celebrations.

He performed one after scoring against Wasps for the Wanderers and another to celebrate Myler’s match-winning kick last weekend, even if the fly-half missed his effort.

So will Wilson be trying to teach more of his team-mates the move? Louis Picamoles, perhaps?

“He (Picamoles) doesn’t really want to do it, I don’t think,” Wilson said. “I don’t think he understands what’s going on with it and my French isn’t the best - I’ve lost quite a bit of it since I left there.

“I’ll keep working on him.

“I don’t think all the boys are too fussed (about the ‘dab’). Stephen was supposed to do it last weekend and he was pretty disappointed, but Stevie gets a bit serious in game time so he’s not really my go-to guy.

“But there are a few out there who do it with me.

“I’ll keep trying with Louis, but I think it might be a bit awkward for him. It would be good to watch.”