PAUL GRAYSON says Tom Wood will be taking ‘small steps’ as the flanker aims to be fit for the start of the new season.
Wood came on as a second-half replacement in the 43-0 win against Leinster at Franklin’s Gardens, and crowned his first appearance since March 24 with a try.
It was a highlight in a game full of them as Saints ran riot, with Dom Waldouck, Paul Diggin, Vasily Artemyev, Scott Armstrong, Tom May and Noah Cato joining Wood on the scoresheet.
But it was the return of the England man that got the biggest cheer of the afternoon and the noise levels went up a few decibels when he scored in the corner on 70 minutes.
Grayson was delighted to see Wood back but he knows the 25-year-old has still got some work to do to be fit for the Premiership opener at Gloucester on September 1.
“It was nice to see Tom back on the pitch,” said Grayson. “It’s been a while for him and hopefully he’s come through that okay because he’ll be desperate to get his rugby playing career back on track.
“It’s been a long time since he’s played and we’ve got great support here. They understand their rugby, they understand when players have had adversity and they always welcome them back.
“He’s played 20 minutes of rugby in how ever many months it is so it’s small steps really for Tom and we’ll see how he responds.”
Wood is just one of a number of back row options for Saints, with competition for places rife at the Gardens.
And Grayson is adamant that the returning star will have to fight for his place, even if he is fully fit for the first competitive game.
“We’ve got a lot of good players across the board challenging for positions and of course nobody’s guaranteed a place in the team, whether they’re 100 per cent fit or not,” said the kicking coach.
“Tom’s main focus will be making sure he can get back to 100 per cent fitness and genuinely challenge for a place in the team.”