With the groin strain that curtailed his Six Nations fully healed, Northampton Saints and England fullback George Furbank is desperate to re-establish his Test credentials.
While lockdown has been devastating for some, Furbank has used the break to take in the enormity of his international baptism whilst ensuring his body is just right.
The result is a fired-up individual who knows he must overcome stiff competition within his own Club at Franklin’s Gardens before adding to the Red Rose caps he won against France and Scotland.
Furbank, who has not played since enduring the Murrayfield monsoon on 8 February, told The Rugby Paper: “It seems like a long time ago now but it’s been great to be out training with the boys at Saints again, throwing a ball about and doing some serious running.
“It was an overload injury in my groin that flared-up in the Ireland Test week, so these last few months have been really good to give that a reset and do some strength work.
“I did it originally during our first Treviso week in Europe and was managing it, but I feel like I’m on top of it now and hope it stays that way when the loading increases.”
Although nearly five months have elapsed since his Test debut in Paris, Furbank, 23, admits his ascension from Gallagher Premiership player to full international still feels surreal. However, that has only hardened his determination to press for further honours this October.
Furbank explained: “It was a dream and even now when we’ve been doing video messages with people during lockdown and they introduce me as ‘England and Saints fullback George Furbank,’ I still find that really weird and have to pinch myself a bit.
“It will take some time to get used to and it was an unbelievable experience that I’m incredibly proud of, but the key thing now is that I don’t want to be that person who’s had one good season at Saints, gets two caps for England and then does nothing else.
“I’ve got bigger ambitions than that and I really want to put my foot down again when things get back up and running properly in the Premiership. I hope that will put me back into England contention, which is what I’ve got my mind set on, and Chris Boyd, our director of rugby, is very good at ensuring people’s feet are kept firmly on the ground.
“He talked to us before we went into camp in January saying similar things and I expect exactly the same when we’re all back at the Club and close to playing again.
“Both Chris and (attack coach) Sam Vesty want the guys who’ve been with England to bring what we’ve learned back to Saints so we can be even bigger voices and be more confident as players slipping into leadership roles by imparting that knowledge.”George Furbank
While Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson provide formidable barriers to his England ambitions, the battle for the No.15 jersey at Saints is no less intense with Harry Mallinder, mercifully over his ACL injury, Ahsee Tuala and young gun Tommy Freeman chiming in.
“I love that competition, to be honest,” Furbank adds. “I roomed with Elliot Daly for a couple of nights on England duty and he really helped me settle in, whilst the others are class players as well, so it’s no different to your club where the competition is very high.
“At Northampton there’s Harry, ‘Ace’ (Tuala) and Tommy but that’s exciting because you know that week-in, week-out you’ve got to be at your best to have that no.15 shirt. The moment you drop below your best, someone else is going to step up and take it from you.
“There’s a little added competition here and whilst I don’t want to speak for Harry, we’re both very excited that we’re in this position. He was in good form prior to the break and is a class player as well, so hopefully we can make selection difficult for Boydy.”