Luther Burrell is ready to lay down a marker in Saints’ next two games as he looks to catapult himself into contention for an England Test start.
Uncapped Burrell has been named in the Red Rose’s 34-man squad for November’s QBE Internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
The 25-year-old is injury cover for Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt and will compete with the likes of Billy Twelvetrees, Henry Trinder and Joel Tomkins for a starting spot.
And Burrell knows he has a good chance to stake his claim in the Heineken Cup clash with Ospreys on Sunday and the Premiership showdown with Saracens six days later.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and I’m absolutely chuffed,” said the former Sale Sharks back. “To be part of a squad including the best players in the country, and with the potential to be playing in the autumn, is something that I’ve always dreamt of doing.
“Hopefully now I can put a marker down in these next couple of games and really try and push for a chance in one of the Tests.
“I think my form has been pretty consistent throughout the start of this season and within the Heineken Cup games I think that’s as close to a Test match as you’re going to get.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) I was quite nervous but I found out in the evening, Stuart rang me and I had a good natter with him. He said now it’s all about my consistency of performance.
“I’ve wanted to taste more of that experience since the summer tour and I’m thankful that I’ve managed to have a good start with the Saints and get myself back in the mix.
“It’s now about showing Stuart why I should be involved.”
Burrell’s transformation from Sale bench-warmer to Saints star has been stark and he feels he owes a lot to his current club.
“It’s been a whirlwind and I’m so grateful for what Northampton and the coaching staff have done for me,” he said
“Jim Mallinder is a fantastic bloke and has been really good with me, speaking on a one-to-one basis and being positive about my progression to get me to where I am now.
“I’ve worked hard on the training ground with all the coaches – Alan Dickens defensively has been brilliant and with Alex King also coming in he has been fantastic with me and all of the other players. I’m still learning and there’s a lot of rugby left in me yet.”
Burrell is one of seven Saints players named in the England squad, with Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Lee Dickson and Ben Foden also selected.
But he is not worried about how his club will cope without so many stellar names, feeling the men left are more than capable of coping with the workload.
“We’ve got a fantastic squad now, haven’t we?” Burrell said. “There’s always competition for places and with players being away comes the opportunity for lads to step up and try and show why they should be starting.
“I was in that position last season and it will be tough. No one wants to come back from international duty and not have that starting spot so if I am away I know I’ve got to still play well but if I’m not, then all my commitment will be with the Saints and keeping that starting spot.”