After a largely uneventful five minutes off the bench against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham, Tom Wood finally got the start he was waiting for last Friday night.
It was his first appearance in the Saints first team since the defeat to Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens back in March.
And it couldn’t have gone too much better as Wood played his part in a big shift from the Saints pack, coming through unscathed in a bonus-point Challenge Cup success at Dragons.
“It has been a while,” said Wood, who has overcome a pubic symphysis problem, which left him unable to walk at one stage of his lengthy recovery period.
“I’ve been really eager to get back involved. It’s been a long road back to fitness and a slightly longer road back to the first team.
“It was great to be back involved with the boys again and feel like I’m contributing to the team.
“I feel really good.
“I nearly got my jaw ripped off in the first collision, so that was a welcome back to senior rugby, but my energy levels were really good throughout the game and I really enjoyed it.
“I feel fit, the body is in a good place and I’ve had a lot of time off the pitch so being out there and playing is all I’m interested in at the minute and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Wood might just have timed his return perfectly, with plenty of opportunities set to arise in the Premiership Rugby Cup during the next three weeks.
Saints are opting to rest several first-team regulars who have played an abundance of minutes this season.
And that means Wood and plenty of the club’s young players are set to be thrust into battle against Bristol Bears, Wasps and Gloucester.
“With the likes of Courtney (Lawes) going away (with England) and Teimana (Harrison) having played so much rugby, there will be opportunities in the first team at Saints, I guess,” Wood said.
“It’s a chance to get a run of games and some of the lads in the Wanderers have been playing brilliantly so with the Premiership Rugby Cup it’s a chance to mix the team up a bit.
“We can give lads a chance to pick up the slack.”
Wood certainly did that in the absence of the likes of James Haskell and Heinrich Brüssow last Friday.
The 31-year-old played the full 80 minutes as Saints converted a 21-0 half-time lead into a crucial 35-21 victory.
“We obviously went into a healthy lead and it was an opportunity to show our control, composure and class to finish a game in style and put a score on the board,” Wood said.
“But it doesn’t always work out like that, it’s easier said than done because Dragons were never going to lie down for us.
“There was some frustration because we felt like we had more in us and we could have been in more control, played more rugby in their half and managed the game better in that second half.
“There is definitely plenty to work on and frustration.
“We came out after half-time and gave four penalties away. We talked about not inviting them back into the game, but that was exactly what we did, so we’ve got plenty to work on.”