After making his first Aviva Premiership Rugby start of the season in Northampton Saints’ victory over Harlequins, Sam Dickinson is determined to make up for lost time by helping his side maintain their sterling form.
The versatile forward, who can play at lock or in the back row, endured a frustrating three-month spell on the sidelines after requiring surgery to resolve a long-standing neck injury in August.
Following cameo appearances against London Welsh and Leicester Tigers, Dickinson stepped up from the bench to play 75 minutes as the reigning champions held off a resurgent Quins in front of a packed-out crowd at Twickenham last weekend.
Such is the strength in depth of Jim Mallinder’s squad, the current Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders have been able to cover for a player who was an integral part of their title-winning campaign last year.
Yet the 29-year-old is relishing the chance to restate his first-team credentials as Saints prepare to host an increasingly strong Newcastle Falcons side at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.
“The win against Quins and the manner of the victory was a big boost for us,” said Dickinson. “It was amazing to play in front of that many people as it made the game more of a spectacle.
“It’s always tough coming back from any injury as you’re going to still have a few niggles but I survived the game and we’ll move on from there.
“Of course it was frustrating to be on the sidelines for so long but it’s nice to see the squad was not suffering as a result.
“We have a brilliant depth to the squad and everyone is ready to step in for anyone else and can perform to a high level.
“I was actually fortunate that there were a couple of injuries and players being rested, which meant I could get the start but I was ready to go straight away.”
While Dickinson was regaining full fitness, another versatile Saint was grabbing the headlines with Samu Manoa putting in a series of destructive performances in the back row, having previously packed down at lock last season.
And Dickinson believes a strong and adaptable pack will be a vital advantage for his side during the crucial run-in towards the play-offs.
“A lot people keep asking about Samu’s best playing position as played in the second row a lot last year because he’s gifted enough to perform in different roles,” he added.
“But we just look to make as much use of him as possible and now in the back row, the more he gets his hands on the ball the better as he’s such a destructive ball carrier.
“It is slightly a case of job done so far but it’s only step one really and we’ll need to keep setting week to week goals to keep being successful.
“So while it’s great to be on top at the end of the year, it’s all about still being up there at the end of the season and we need to keep working hard.”