Consistent Wilson revelling in his return to action at Saints

James Wilson made his first start of the season in last weekend's win against London Irish (picture: Sharon Lucey)
James Wilson made his first start of the season in last weekend's win against London Irish (picture: Sharon Lucey)
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With Saints enduring a season of peaks and troughs, they will now be so glad to have their Mr Consistent back in the side.

The loss of James Wilson was often understated, but to those who have seen him play since his arrival at the club in 2012, it wasn’t underestimated.

The Kiwi missed the first half of the season with a nasty arm injury sustained in last season’s Aviva Premiership semi-final defeat to Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens.

And he was not able to return until the end of last month, when he came off the bench in the disappointing 24-11 defeat to Wasps.

That game was already gone, with Wilson only able to try to steady a sinking ship for the final 20 minutes, helping his team eventually grab a consolation score through Sam Dickinson.

Wilson was part of a much happier Saints camp a week later as he replaced Ken Pisi at half-time and looked strong as his side stole a 27-23 victory at Harlequins.

And last weekend, the assured 32-year-old got a long-awaited first start of the season, lining up on the wing in the 35-7 win against London Irish.

“The Wasps game was disappointing and the scoreline was a bit shocking,” Wilson said.

“Having to come on when the game was lost was a tough one, but we got away with one against Harlequins and then we had a good win last weekend.

“Onwards and upwards, as they say.”

The glee Wilson displays when discussing his return is as evident as the scar on his right arm, which shows the damage done by that collision in the Saracens game.

So bad was the injury that he was forced to have a second operation on it, meaning he would not play before the new year.

“I finished off the half, but I had snapped it in a tackle,” Wilson explains.

“I went to wrap with my arm and the force of that came up against his head and I completely snapped it.

“The X-ray wasn’t that pretty so I’ve now got a long bar the length of my forearm holding the bone together. It’s a bit of a job on it.”

While some players may wallow after sustaining such an injury, Wilson simply worked as hard as he could to overcome it, even taking a shorter holiday in the bid to return as quickly as possible.

“I was just working with the physio at the Saints and we were in every day,” he said.

“I cut my holiday a bit short and we were just working hard to get back as soon as possible.

“It was just unfortunate the way the arm didn’t bind together after the first surgery.

“I had to have it operated on again, so I was just in working every day.

“I had to put my head down and do it. I just wanted to get it right so I could play.”

The pain Wilson felt in his arm was accentuated by Saints’ performances while he was sidelined.

“It’s been a bit frustrating watching from the sidelines,” he said. “It has been a long road back.”

“Obviously it was frustrating watching the way the boys were performing. Results weren’t going our way in the first part of the season.

“It wasn’t great to be on the sidelines watching that because I wanted to be there to help them out.

“But it is good to be back now.”

And how glad Saints are to have him back.

Wilson, who formerly played for Southland in his homeland, is capable of excelling at full-back, centre, fly-half and wing.

It is the latter which he has been strutting his stuff at during the past two weeks, and it seems he has timed his return perfectly, with signs that Saints now have their swagger back.

“It is unfortunate to say that, but yeah, I think so,” said Wilson when asked whether he thinks his comeback has happened at exactly the right time.

“I obviously would have loved to have been there at the start of the season and us fly from the get-go, but it isn’t the case.

“But I am happy with the way things are going.

“I just want to work my backside off to stay in there.

“It is a good time for us with players away with the Six Nations because over the past few years it has been a good period for us in getting results and the points we need to continue on. I’m looking forward to this weekend, and the weekends ahead.”

This weekend, Saints travel to face a Newcastle Falcons side who have won their past five home games on their artificial surface.

But Wilson has good memories of Kingston Park, having scored two tries there in a 22-16 win in February, 2014.

“I do enjoy playing on the pitch they have up there, and also at Saracens,” he said.

“It’s great underfoot, you know what it’s going to do, it’s a nice flat surface and you can play good running rugby.

“Hopefully the weather will allow us to do that and I know the conditions underfoot are going to be perfect so it’s a win-win for us, especially with how we’ve been playing during the past couple of weeks.”

With plenty of talk about players coming and going at this time of year, Saints fans will be reassured to know that Wilson will be sticking around until at least 2017.

“I’m still here for another season at least so I’m very comfortable with where I am,” he said.

“Hopefully the coaches are comfortable with me and I can continue on performing for the Saints.”

If Wilson’s consistent history is anything to go by, that won’t be a problem.