Tom Wood insists England’s loss is very much Northampton Saints’ gain after admitting those overlooked for the Six Nations are champing at the bit to prove themselves at Franklin’s Gardens.
Saints return to Aviva Premiership Rugby action having secured a European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final berth on a dramatic weekend.
They face Wasps, who may have taken a few scalps of their own in Europe this year, but have beaten Northampton once in their last 13 attempts.
Saints though have been up-and-down in Aviva Premiership Rugby so far – collecting four wins from their first nine games – but Wood says the experienced internationals left behind can make a big impression.
“I think there are some guys licking their wounds a bit,” he said. “Myself, Luther Burrell, Mike Haywood has been in great form this year, Ben Foden is back to his best.
“Jamie Gibson as well is another one who has been playing brilliant rugby but doesn’t seem to be getting much of a mention.
“So it’s about us galvanising as a group, pulling tight and using this period of time when other teams are perhaps having their resources stretched, to push on.
“We’ve got a batch of ten games back-to-back in the Premiership now, it’s pretty relentless and attritional.
“We’re going to have to use our full squad but having been on the other side of it, away with England or periods of time, I know this period is really crucial.
“It’s up to us guys who are back here now to really hold down the fort for the lads and make sure we’re in a really strong position when they arrive back.”
Wasps brought their three-game losing streak in the league to an end last time out with victory over Worcester Warriors, though they have not been victorious at Franklin’s Gardens since 2005.
And though both squads undergoing a shake-up due to the Six Nations, Wasps lock James Gaskell insists the challenge remains the same.
“It’s one of those where we will have a few boys missing and they will have a few boys missing, but they’ll be hugely physical,” he said.
“In the set-piece they are dangerous and they have big ball carriers coming off at 12 or 13 who can hurt you.
“We’ll need to up the physicality and whoever does the basics right is going to get the win.
“We’re all looking forward to it, especially the boys who haven’t played as much and will be wanting to step up.”
Franklin’s Gardens, 7.45pm – Live on BT Sport
Referee: Thomas Foley (12th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Simon McConnell. TMO: Stuart Terheege.