Wood performance delights Saints coach Mallinder

BACK IN ACTION - Tom Wood played 80 minutes for Saints at Gloucester on Saturday    PICTURE: LINDA DAWSON
BACK IN ACTION - Tom Wood played 80 minutes for Saints at Gloucester on Saturday PICTURE: LINDA DAWSON
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SAINTS boss Jim Mallinder is expecting a ‘big season’ from Tom Wood after seeing the flanker start his first Premiership game since March 24 last weekend.

Wood helped Mallinder’s men get the better of Gloucester on Saturday, playing the full 80 minutes in the opening-day win at Kingsholm.

The England ace, who had been sidelined with a foot injury, showed no ill effects as he got stuck in to help Saints grind out a win, despite them playing seven of the final 13 minutes with just 13 men.

Mallinder was delighted to see Wood back in competitive action and the director of rugby is now expecting great things from the 2010/11 Premiership player of the year.

“I’m delighted for Tom,” said Mallinder. “We’ve been taking it steady with him and he’s not over-played in pre-season.

“We’ve just been feeding him in and he’s really pleased he got through the 80 minutes. We don’t want to get too carried away but we missed him last season because he’s important to the team.”

England boss Stuart Lancaster will also have been happy to see Wood back in action, with the autumn internationals just a few months away.

But Mallinder says it’s too premature to be talking of an international return for the 25-year-old.

“It’s far too far away to think about that, but we know Tom’s potential and hope he can have a big season,” he said.