Mature Saints star Harrison harbours no England envy

Harrison impressed for an England XV in June
Harrison impressed for an England XV in June

On the face of it, you would think Teimana Harrison has every right to feel a little envious.

After all, it was he who starred for an England XV against the Barbarians back in June.

Teimana Harrison is setting his sights on more success with Saints

Teimana Harrison is setting his sights on more success with Saints

It is he who has more international experience.

And it was he who had no choice but to leave the door open during an international training week with his country.

As it turned out, Lewis Ludlam was to walk right through the gap, refusing to look back.

Because while Harrison was back at home following the birth of his child, Ludlam was given the chance to train with an England squad managed by Jim Mallinder.

The flanker, who was so impressive for Saints last season, did not play against the Barbarians later that week as Harrison returned to camp and was handed the start.

But Ludlam had done enough in training, and in his role as a Twickenham water boy, to catch the eye of England boss Eddie Jones.

And while Harrison headed back to pre-season preparations at Saints, Ludlam was given his national team shot.

Since then, he has impressed in two games against Wales, doing enough to become a World Cup bolter.

It is just reward for Ludlam’s ability to settle on any stage and for his strong showings after finally cementing a place in the Saints team last season.

But how about Harrison?

Does he feel any jealousy that it is his friend from Saints who is heading to Japan rather than him?

Not at all, says the New Zealand-born back row forward.

“I’m happy for him,” Harrison said.

“Out of anyone in our squad he deserved a shot at it. Fair play to him, he’s taken it.

“I wouldn’t change it. I’m happy chilling here and doing my thing.

“I’ve obviously got a baby now and it would have been a long time away from home so I’m really happy with everything.”

Harrison will be watching on when Ludlam does the business in the World Cup.

He added: “I think he’ll do well.

“He’s had two games against a good Wales team and he’s been near enough at the top of outstanding players in the team.

“I’m really happy for him and I hope he does get a shot at the World Cup.”

As for his own England experience, Harrison savoured every second of it.

“It was awesome, good to be back involved with Jim Mallinder,” he said. “It was nice to catch up with him and have a chat and stuff.

“To put the England shirt on was really good and it was nice to get a good outing with them.

“It’s a shame it wasn’t a cap, but hey.

“It was nice to share the field with a lot of the Saints boys.

“We had Ehren Painter, Hilly (Paul Hill) and Luds was training with us.

“It was a really enjoyable game, especially when we’d been written off so much, to turn round and beat the Barbarians.

“It was a shame about Alex Mitchell (getting injured). I think he’d at least have had a chance of playing in some of the (World Cup) warm-up games.”

But Harrison’s time with England can’t be considered the most important part of his summer.

“It was a pretty exciting time - becaume my boy was born at the end of May,” said Harrison.

“We called him Wolf Tiaki Joshua Harrison, keeping on the theme of being a bit different so he came and then that week I went out and played against the Barbarians. It was awesome.

“I had a good five weeks in not so sunny England.

“My boy’s almost three months old and time flies.

“It’s nice when you’ve been training here and then you can go home to a nice smile and take over.

“I’m really enjoying it.”

For those who have been around Saints for long enough, Harrison’s transition from dreadlocked, raw back rower, to senior forward is one to cherish.

And he laughed as he said: “It’s been a weird transition, getting rid of the kid and turning into a bit of a man.

“It is really nice and Northampton is home for me. It seems right to settle down and start building my home here.”

Now Harrison, who turns 27 on September 5, is looking forward to another productive season in the black, green and gold, having become an integral part of the squad.

He was typically impressive at No.8 last season as Saints finished fourth in the Gallagher Premiership, reached the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup and won the Premiership Rugby Cup.

And he is setting his sights even higher this time round.

“We did really well last year,” Harrison said.

“It’s going to be hard to back that season up but the boys are champing at the bit.

“We’ve got guys coming back from injury, hoping to add their bit to the team so it will be a very exciting season and definitely one I’m looking forward to.

“The first thing Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) said when he came in last season was that it was about nothing other than top four.

“If we’d come fifth or sixth, the season would have been a failure.

“So he sets the targets high and it’s up to us to reach those targets.

“We’re pushing for top two this season.”

Saints will host Leinster for a pre-season fixture on September 12 before getting things started with four Premiership Rugby Cup matches, beginning at Sale Sharks on September 21.

“It’s one of the longest pre-seasons I’ve had and we can’t wait to get into the games and the fun stuff,” Harrison said. “It’s boring running at the minute.

“We’ve got a game soon and boys are eyeing that up, hoping to be involved.

“It’s something to look forward to.

“We’ve done seven or eight weeks of hard graft running so there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”