Wood can't wait to see key man Clark back in action for Saints

The fact Tom Wood needed an operation when the season ended showed just how attritional the campaign just gone has been.

Sunday, 22nd May 2016, 7:00 am
The high standard of Tom Wood's performances helped Saints to finish fifth (picture: Sharon Lucey)

The lack of an LV= Cup competition, due to the World Cup pushing the Aviva Premiership start date back to mid-October, has meant senior players have struggled to get a break.

In fact, the only breaks they have had are of the broken body variety, with clubs having to field their frontline stars far more than they would have liked.

Gaps in the Premiership calendar have been filled by Champions Cup matches.

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And with no room for error in European competition, clubs like Saints have had to select their strongest side week in, week out.

The management have done their best to rest and rotate, but questions would be asked if players like Wood, Stephen Myler and Ben Foden had been left out for too long.

And there have been ever fewer chances to give them time off, with injuries biting at Franklin’s Gardens during the season.

While summer signing Jamie Gibson has been hugely impressive and double player of the year Teimana Harrison has had a simply stunning season, Wood has still been a crucial cog in the wheel.

With last season’s double player of the year, Calum Clark, unable to play a single competitive game due to a shoulder injury, Wood has stepped up in typical fashion.

But he knows tired bodies and minds are never likely to be able to be at 100 per cent every week.

And he is looking forward to next season, when Saints will get the relief of LV= Cup weeks, in which young players are given a chance and senior stars are rested.

And they will also hope to get Clark back, as well as more games from men such as Dylan Hartley, who only made nine appearances last season due to injuries and international commitments.

“We need some of our key men back,” said Wood, who had surgery earlier this week on a neck injury that he had been carrying during the back end of a brutal season.

“It will be great to have Calum back because he’s a good presence around the lads.

“We’ve missed Dylan, real charismatic guys who lead from the front. We need those guys sharing the workload.

“We’ve missed them a bit this season and hopefully we’ll get them back fit and strong and in a good frame of mind to hit the ground running.”

The emergence of the likes of Harrison, who was named in England’s 26-man squad for this week’s training camp in Brighton, and Harry Mallinder, has added to Saints’ depth for next season.

And Wood said: “Those guys have put in a monumental shift this year.

“Mike Haywood has played game after game in Dylan’s absence and he’s played absolutely brilliantly as well.

“Teimana has come from hardly being involved in the squad to starting every week and carrying unbelievably well. He’s been knocking people around and he’s somewhat raw is Tei. He’s not refined the way some of the Academy lads are, coming through the system.

“He’s come over from Rotorua and all he does is get the ball in his hands, pick someone out and run over him.

“He’s done it week after week and no one seems to have learned their lesson yet. You’ve got to tackle him properly, tackle him low and no one has managed to stop him this far.

“Hopefully he gets the recognition over the summer and I’d love to see him go on a summer tour to get a reward for all his hard work this year.”

And Harrison is certainly not the only one who has worked hard this season.