Saints put faith in Wood momentum

Flanker rewarded for display against the All Blacks with starting place against Ulster

Tom Wood has spent too much of his year on the physiotherapist's slab to moan about playing two hard games in six days, but these particular hard games would be enough to test the physical fortitude of a comic book superhero. Wood's immediate reward for his bruising, not to say exhausting, contribution to England's famous victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham last weekend is a starting place in the Northampton side for tomorrow night's big Heineken Cup game with Ulster at Franklin's Gardens.

Jim Mallinder, the Midlanders' rugby director, must have thought long and hard before picking the flanker for this one, especially as he had a second England back-rower, Phil Dowson, fit and available for duty. But Wood was so completely in the zone against the New Zealanders last Saturday he all but demanded inclusion. Dowson, currently playing second fiddle to his colleague internationally, now finds himself marginalised at club level in the same way, by the same man.

Courtney Lawes, the lock who also participated in the record victory over the reigning world champions, will join Wood in the starting pack this evening and there will be fun to be had watching him attempt to out-tackle his equally dynamic engine-room partner, Samu Manoa.

But the most fascinating figure will be Dylan Hartley, who started the season as England's top hooker – the undisputed number one No 2 – but now faces a battle royal with the impressive Test newcomer Tom Youngs ahead of the Six Nations, which begins in February.

Hartley missed the entire autumn series through injury, but is back between the shafts for back-to-back meetings with an Ulster side whose heavy defeat in last season's Heineken Cup final is very much a motivating force this time around. Unbeaten in the Pro12 league this term, they consider themselves strong enough to restrict players as good as Paul Marshall and Craig Gilroy to bench duty.

Northampton are also well blessed in the replacements' department: Lee Dickson, a first-choice England scrum-half as recently as last February, finds himself understudying Martin Roberts tonight while the ace goal-kicker Stephen Myler must watch from the sidelines as the more inventive, less predictable Ryan Lamb has first shot at the outside-half duties.

Meanwhile, Wasps must come to terms with the loss of Lee Thomas, their close-season recruit in midfield, for the rest of the campaign. The Welshman, signed from the French club Lyon, ruptured his Achilles tendon during last weekend's Premiership defeat at Exeter and has no chance of playing again this side of midsummer.

"We are bitterly disappointed for Lee, who was really starting to find his feet at Wasps," said David Young, the Londoners' rugby director. "It's a big blow to lose him for so long. He was thoroughly enjoying his first few months here but we'll have to focus on getting him back fit and ready for next season. He's a good character: once he's over the frustration, he'll be an important guy to have around."

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
News
i100
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect