Northampton Saints back row Teimana Harrison admits he has relished being back at the coalface for the men in Black, Green and Gold over the last two weeks.
The abrasive 28-year-old returned to the side for the win over Sale Sharks before last weekend’s defeat by Bristol Bears, after recovering from hand and groin injuries which had limited him to only three appearances this season beforehand.
No doubt losing Harrison’s tenacity at the breakdown and ferocious ball-carrying ability for such a long period was a blow for Saints, with the England international pretty much ever-present in the starting XV over the past three seasons.
But in his absence, the likes of Tom Wood, Nick Isiekwe, Lewis Ludlam, Shaun Adendorff and JJ Tonks have all stood up to be counted in the back row – and while two impressive performances may have given the impression he had never been away, Harrison revealed he was feeling some pressure to deliver the goods on his return to the team.
“I definitely felt like I’d been away a while on my first game back! My lungs were taking a beating,” he said.
“But in the squad that we’ve got now, looking through our back row; we’ve got Woody, who is performing like a 22-year-old, we’ve got Shaun Adendorff, who has stamped his mark, Luds, who is an amazing player, Nick Isiekwe too – so when you get the chance to claim your shirt back you have to take it.
“It’s nice because it put a bit of pressure on me to perform and I like to think I’ve made the best of it.”Teimana Harrison
“It’s been awesome to be back out there because I’ve only played five games this season. It’s been a real frustrating season for me, dealing with injuries and niggles, so I’m excited to be back out there and making the most of it.
“There are nerves when you come back into the team, but I’m relatively good at controlling those nerves, especially in a Saints shirt.
“A little bit of experience helps and it’s good nervousness because I don’t want to lose that shirt. I know it could be my only chance to get it done and it’s good pressure.”