Having put pen to paper on a new deal to stay at Northampton Saints as part of a revamped pack, Tom Mercey might be tempted to rest on his laurels but the prop believes it is vital his team-mates focus on the here and now.
With Alex Corbisiero due to arrive from London Irish in the summer and a couple of high-profile departures expected in the front row, places are certainly up for grabs in the Saints’ starting XV for the next campaign.
But with Northampton a bonus-point victory away from a potential qualification for the next stage of the Heineken and currently lying fifth in the Aviva Premiership table, the 25-year-old front rower insists no one in the Saints squad should be looking beyond the next game.
“I’ve known for quite a while that this is the place I want to be,” said Mercey, who joined Northampton from Saracens in 2010. “We’ve got a really good squad and I’m looking forward to this weekend and the rest of the season.
“However, we are aware we have to play in the here and now we can’t always talk about playing for the future. We have ambitions to push on this season, we have a bit more experience having been in those positions previously and it should be exciting.
“We can’t look to the future too much because we could come unstuck during the rest of the season. Northampton is a strong club and you would always expect them to have a quality squad.
“We need to focus on what is happening from a playing perspective during the rest of the season - it’s someone else’s job to deal with what goes on off the pitch.”
While Brian Mujati and Soane Tonga’uiha have become synonymous with Northampton’s trademark, powerful pack, failure at the final hurdle in 2011 Heineken Cup and three consecutive Aviva Premiership semi-finals has the Saints marked down as the nearly men of English rugby.
However Mercey is convinced Saints’ young squad has the potential to win trophies, particularly with the likes of Corbisiero and fellow prop Alex Waller - who also signed a new contract this week - in the side.
“It’s a really good place to be, our squad has a good core of young players and the last two years have put us in a good position to push forward,” said the former England Saxons player.
“You only have to look at our forwards coach Dorian West, who has produced pretty consistent packs here and for the England set-up, which tells you something. In the next couple of years this is the place I want to be as we have got the right group to move forward.
“Alex is a quality player and has played the most first team games of anyone last season. He’s one of the younger guys in the squad but I’m looking forward to playing with him in the future.
“Every team in the Aviva Prem will have a dip during the course of the season, but it’s about when that dip is and how long it lasts - we want to put ourselves in a good position to get into the top four at the end of the season.”
Meanwhile, England flanker Tom Croft insists it won’t just be the Aviva Premiership players on international duty at the Six Nations in February and March dreaming of a Lions call-up this summer.
An uncapped Will Greenwood travelled to South Africa in 1997 and although the trend in recent seasons has been to take season internationals – the likes of Ollie Smith and Andy Titterell in 2005, John Bentley in 1997 and Jason Robinson in 2001 have all travelled with single figure caps.
“That will be their primary goal whether you’re playing international rugby or in plying your trade in the Aviva Premiership week-in-week-out,” said Croft.
“But being a Lions’ year there is that added bit of pressure and it will be in the back of every player’s mind, nagging away that if they perform well that there is likelihood they will get a Lions call- up which is a huge accolade.”
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