Luther Burrell admits getting an England call-up feels ‘surreal’ – but says it won’t overshadow Saturday’s Premiership final.
The barrell-chested centre has been rewarded for his fine recent form by being added to the Red Rose squad for this summer’s tour of Uruguay and Argentina.
Burrell and Saints team-mate Stephen Myler have been called up after injuries to Saracens duo Joel Tomkins and Alex Goode.
It caps a remarkable rise to prominence for Burrell, who struggled to make an impression at Sale before his summer switch to Saints.
But he has gone on to establish himself as a key member of Jim Mallinder’s side, scoring eight tries in 19 appearances this season.
Burrell will now hope to cap a fine campaign by putting a Premiership trophy in Saints’ cabinet before jetting off to South America.
And he says all thoughts of England will be consigned to the back of his mind until after Saturday’s huge showpiece against Leicester.
“ It was only two or three years ago I was fighting relegation with Leeds so it’s quite surreal I’m now playing in a Premiership final and I’ve got the call for England,” said the former Leeds star. “It’s something I’m going to embrace.
“I’m not going to let the England thing sink in and overshadow what this weekend is about because for me that’s massive.
“It’s massive for the club and it would be brilliant to get the win against Leicester in the east midlands Premiership final.”
To lift the trophy on Saturday, Saints will have to avenge March’s 36-8 humbling at the hands of Leicester at the Gardens.
The Tigers roared that day to cruise to victory and Burrell and his team-mates are desperate to make amends for that Franklin’s Gardens horror show.
“Last time we played Leicester they beat us quite comfortably so for us it’s about rectifying that,” he said.
“We’ll go into the game underdogs, which quite suits us and it’s about performance.
“That (the March fixture) was a game that hurt a lot of boys. I don’t really like talking about that because it was quite embarrassing, what they did to us. But we’ve got an opportunity to put it right this weekend.
“We’re not going to focus too much on them, we’re going to focus on us and what’s been working for us.
“Hopefully we can raise the intensity we brought in the semi-final at Saracens and get the win.”
Though Burrell is keen not to think too much about Tigers, he can’t ignore one of the men lining up against him this weekend.
Manu Tuilagi ran riot in the win at the Gardens, scoring two tries to shred Saints’ hopes.
And Burrell believes stopping the England star could be the key to securing the win.
“He’s a brilliant player,” said the Saints powerhouse. “He’s a very strong runner, as everyone knows, and he’s brilliant in defence so if we can stop him getting on the front foot we’re halfway to the victory.”
Should Saints stop Tuilagi and tame the Tigers, it would cap a remarkable season for Burrell.
And he admits it’s something he could never have imagined when the latest steps of his rugby journey took him to the Gardens last summer.
“This is what you dream of,” he said. “This is what I dream of. Coming out of school and playing school and Yorkshire rugby, who’d have thought I’d be playing in a Premiership final. It’s fantastic.
“To come from a club where we’ve been fighting relegation for years and be in a Premiership final is fantastic.
“It would mean the world. There’s not going to be a bigger fixture for us.
“To see the boys who are leaving off on the right note and get Northampton to their first final and win would be absolutely fantastic.
“I get goosebumps thinking about it now.”