Ben Foden believes he can be fit in time for England’s first World Cup warm-up match on August 15.
The Saints star has been out of action since rupturing his anterior crucial ligament (ACL) in the Champions Cup win at Ospreys in January.
But, a notoriously fast healer, the full-back is recovering well, with Saints forwards coach Dorian West admitting Foden is ‘already up and running faster than a lot of people in the game’.
That means the 29-year-old is on track to make England’s game against France at Twickenham in two months’ time.
The Red Rose face the French on back-to-back weekends and Ireland on September 5 before their World Cup campaign gets underway against Fiji on September 18.
And though he wasn’t named in England’s initial 50-man World Cup training squad, head coach Stuart Lancaster stressed that Foden remains under consideration.
“My rehab has gone really well and my knee feels really strong,” Foden said. “They told me an ACL would be between six to nine months and that left me with a race against time to ensure that I was on the side of six months rather than nine.
“Luckily for me I think the injury was quite clean so I don’t think there was any other damage to any other ligaments. The operation went well and I have been able to get on with things quickly.
“I started running two weeks ago and the next two or three weeks are about getting me back to full running level and at a level where if I do go into camp I can train and do everything all the other lads are doing.
“The benefit for me is that the start of the camp will effectively be like a pre-season, so there will not be that much rugby or contact. It will be more about fitness, running and getting strong, which is primarily what I am doing anyway, so hopefully that will work in my favour.
“It is nice to be name-checked by Stuart. I had a good phone call with Andy Farrell before Stuart announced the squad and I was saying that I was really confident and feeling good that I could get to a level where I need to be to be called into the squad.
“I know that I need to be fit by Aug 15 for that first warm-up game because they are going to want to see me play and see that I am at the level I was before I got injured.”
Foden, who will aim to challenge the likes of Mike Brown and Alex Goode for the England 15 shirt, has been working with Bill Knowles, one of the world’s leading knee specialists.
Knowles’ previous clients include Jonny Wilkinson and Tiger Woods and his two-week camp with the Saints player in Philadelphia has clearly paid dividends.
“I was hoping I was going there for a two-week holiday but training was very intense,” Foden told the Daily Telegraph.
“I had two two-and-a-half-hour sessions every day. Bill pushes you hard but he was very helpful in terms of letting me know where my body was at, how my recovery was going and what I needed to do to get myself right.
“I have taken that knowledge from learning with Bill and fed it back into my rehabilitation and I have been able to make giant steps over the last two or three weeks back at the club.
“He makes you aware that you have to look after the whole body. It is not just a knee injury. It is the effect it will have on my ankle injury and my other knee.
“I gave him the goal of getting me back by August. He said it was obviously a big ask and said we needed to be more aggressive about the way we approached my rehabilitation but he said it was very achievable. If it wasn’t he would tell you, and that is what gives me hope.”