Saints flanker Tom Wood admits he is excited about the opportunity to prove himself again in the coming weeks after returning to the Black, Green and Gold jersey last night.
Wood led the Northampton Wanderers side that was narrowly beaten 29-26 in a friendly fixture against London Irish on his first match back following a lengthy injury lay-off.
The match at Franklin's Gardens saw nine tries scored in a back and forth clash, with the Exiles eventually prevailing thanks to a try from Irish scrum-half Rory Brand in the final five minutes to put the game to bed.
The Wandies needed only a minute to score in the first half through Matt Worley, and Reece Marshall, Ollie Sleightholme and Fraser Strachan added further tries for the hosts.
But Wood was just happy to be back on the pitch, and is looking forward to putting in the hard yards in training in order to force his way into Chris Boyd's first-team plans.
“I feel pretty good energy wise; I was quite surprised actually, these second team games can usually be quite harum-scarum, end-to-end stuff and I held up ok,” said the 31-year-old.
“I felt a little bit rusty on the ball and was lacking perhaps half a second of real match fitness and reaction speed, but otherwise I feel pretty good.
“When you’re an experienced player and you find yourself in a game like that, you want to stand out and you perhaps force it a little too much on occasions. It was important for me to try and fit into the team structure and not try and take too much on myself, and just be a good foot soldier I guess.
“We’ve got a lot of competition in the back row this year and there’s some players doing a good job so far, so I just have to bide my time and prove my fitness and reestablish myself again.”
"The energy levels, the defensive energy, and the line speed were great so there’s lots for us to take away."Tom Wood
It was a first defeat of the season for the Wanderers, who had beaten Leicester Tigers and Sale Jets on their travels so far this term, before Wasps cancelled Monday's Premiership Rugby Shield fixture.
But with another Shield fixture on the horizon next week against Newcastle Falcons, Wood was full of praise for the team and the direction the young squad is heading in.
He said: “We were a very young team and a very mismatched team by the end there, so we’re not going to be too hard on ourselves.
“We had a few guests in and a few guys coming back from injury and stuff like that, so it was a little bit disjointed, but it’s always disappointing to lose especially when you did a lot of good stuff in there.
“But there’s positives to take. That was probably about as good a second team as we’ll play all year. London Irish have got a lot of strength in depth and that’s almost a championship level team we played tonight; it proved to be the case on the scoreboard.
“We needed to react quicker at times in the defensive maul. On our line there were some big men and when they got set they were near impossible to stop, so we needed to be a bit more destructive in those first couple of seconds of the maul.
“We needed a bit more composure in attack but other than that I thought the energy levels were great, the defensive energy was good, the line speed was good, so there’s lots to take.”