Northampton Saints have not been decimated by international call-ups this month and while James Craig admits some individuals may be disappointed, it’s great news for the club.
The Saints have fallen short of their usual high standards at times this season, slipping to defeat at London Irish on Boxing Day and a home loss at the hands of Wasps late last month.
However, they inflicted a 27-23 defeat on Harlequins at the Stoop last weekend – the hosts’ first on home soil in all competitions this season – to collect a valuable four points.
Ben Foden scored a last-gasp try to win it, with Luther Burrell also crossing over and Stephen Myler adding two conversions and a penalty.
And second row Craig is pleased to have players of international quality plying their trade back at the club during the Six Nations – especially 42-time capped flanker Tom Wood.
“He is a great player,” Craig said of Wood. “He has got a lot of experience and he is very good at what he does. He works ridiculously hard – probably one of the hardest workers in our team.
“It’s huge to have those guys around. You need leaders in your team and when you start losing a few, it can be a bit of an issue.
“It is disappointing for them personally not to be involved with England but the way they are going about their business as you would expect from good, professional players.
“They are committed and bringing a lot of energy to training.
“To win the game in the last minute, those are some of the wins you remember the most. You think you are going to lose and a minute later you are going mental with your teammates. Harlequins are a difficult team to stop when they get on the front foot, particularly at the Stoop.”
As for his own form, first-team opportunities have been limited at Franklin’s Gardens this season and Craig – by his own admission – is yet to hit his stride.
The 27-year-old, who started at Harlequins in place of legendary South African lock Victor Matfield, has made just four Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances in this campaign and he is eager to get more under his belt.
“I am not 100 per cent happy with how I played but I’m glad to be out there,” he added.
“We have got a lot of good second rows in our squad so hopefully I will get an opportunity to string a few performances together and that’s when I will play my best rugby.
“It has been an amazing experience to train and play alongside [Matfield]. There is not much you can say about Victor that hasn’t been said but it has been a great experience for me to play with someone who I looked up to growing up.”