James is fit and ready to fire for Saints

Playing through the pain may be something Saints have to do against a powerhouse Racing 92 side in Paris on Sunday afternoon.

By Tom Vickers
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 7:00 am
Tom James
Tom James

But for Tom James, that won't be something new.

Because, the scrum-half revealed this week, he was doing it all of last season.

James had an ankle injury that was only diagnosed as the campaign reached its conclusion, meaning he had to have surgery that hampered his start to this season.

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But he is now back to full fitness and desperate to take his chance in the Champions Cup clash at La Défense Arena this weekend.

"I obviously had a slightly frustrating start to the year with the ankle operation and you always feel like you're playing catch-up a bit with that," James said.

"It was slightly frustrating not to be involved too much in terms of game time, but I'm just trying to make sure that any opportunity I get I make the most of.

"I'm keeping my head down, working hard and trying to enjoy it."

On the ankle injury, which meant he didn't feature for Saints until early November, James said: "For almost all of last year I was playing with a stress fracture in my ankle.

"It was a pretty tough injury to diagnose and they only really found out at the start of the summer break so I was whisked into surgery pretty quick and then had 10 to 12 weeks out.

"It was pretty uncomfortable for the whole of the year.

"I knew something was wrong but it was a fracture in a bone which is right in the middle of the ankle and it's a pretty rare injury.

"We didn't really find out the root cause until the start of the summer break but it was definitely manageable and I was able to play with it.

"I had to be clever during the week in terms of how much load I could put through it.

"I got a screw in it in the summer and ever since then, it's felt really good.

"Training and playing pain-free is very different and a massive relief."

While his fitness is now there, James is eager to get a chance to build some form.

He came off the bench to grab a try in the 44-8 win at Newcastle Falcons earlier this month and looks set to make his third start of the season at Racing 92 on Sunday.

He has had to be patient due to the fine form of Alex Mitchell, who has been hogging the No.9 shirt this season.

"He's been fantastic, really, really good and it's been tough but it's very much part of rugby," James said.

"There are always going to be times when you're not playing as much as you would like and it's about trying to take each opportunity when you can and making the most of it.

"Whatever role I'm given in the squad, it's about making sure I'm doing all I can and the best I can."

James joined Saints from Doncaster Knights in the summer of 2020 and has made 27 appearances in total.

But perhaps what lies in wait in Paris on Sunday will be his toughest test yet.

"The squad of guys that are going over are very excited and we've spoken about it as a massive opportunity," said the 28-year-old.

"We're fine with being labelled as the underdogs because we know we're really capable of being competitive over there.

"It's a chance to put things right because we haven't been happy with our performances in the Champions Cup.

"It's a good opportunity to go to one of the toughest places against tournament favourites and put in a really good performance.

"It's quite a famous stadium for being a good place to play so I'm definitely looking forward to that."