Stand by for a shameless plug, but Tom Wood has boot manufacturers Nike to thank for his return to action.
A couple of weeks ago Saints boss Jim Mallinder said it was highly unlikely that Wood would be fit by the end of the Six Nations.
And so it was a surprise to see the England flanker on the bench for the clash at Saracens, but no surprise to see him scoop the man-of-the-match award in his first start for two months in the LV= Cup semi-final win over Scarlets on Sunday.
After being tipped to captain England into its new dawn under interim Stuart Lancaster, Wood has been left distraught at a big toe injury that he said was not even causing him any pain.
But he was advised to rest it on the eve of the championship to avoid surgery and it becoming a long-term problem. And that rest has gone on longer than anticipated. Only the intervention of Nike and a specially designed boot has seen Wood back playing.
Wood’s injury has been caused by his unusual bird feet. A high arch and the modern lightweight boots have seen him put undue pressure on the ball of his right foot.
“Nike have really looked after me,” said Wood. “They have put together some specially made boots for me, which are as stiff as hell.
“They don’t move and it stops my foot getting into a fully flexed position and my toe being exposed.
“I have a massive high arch and really flexible toes and you can imagine all the pressure going through my big toe when I run.
“The ball of my foot is injured, so my big toe is weak and I have been relying on the other toes to push off and drive. My big toe is strapped up.
“Nike basically made boots for me to stop me getting into that exposed position and stop me injuring my foot.
“It has made a massive difference for me and allowed me to come back quicker, because in real flexible boots I didn’t have the strength in my toe.”
Wood’s foot problem had been growing for some time before it was decided to give him some rest, a decision that was incredibly hard for the 25-year-old.
“I didn’t have to stop to playing because of the injury, it wasn’t a pain thing,” said Wood.
“It was a case of longevity.
“If I kept playing I would eventually break down, I was on a downward spiral and the medics and everybody else took the decision to make sure I got some rest.
“It was a very tough decision because of the timing of it, it just had to be done and hopefully it might add some time on the end of my career.”
Despite his man-of-the-match display, Wood feels there is plenty more to come after two months out and following his first full week of training.
“I took a bang on the head in the week which didn’t help,” said Wood.”I felt pretty rusty to be honest.
“My tackle technique has gone to pot. I am full of gusto and enthusiasm, but my technique is not so good.”