HAVING played in his first game since the World Cup final, back row Mark Wilson is hoping to help Sale enjoy a big end to the season and push his claim for an England recall.
The 30-year-old put two months on the sidelines with a knee injury behind him by making his club debut in Friday night’s Premiership Cup semi-final victory against Saracens at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Had Wilson been fit, his versatility in being able to play across the back row would likely have seen him pack down at No.8 for England in Billy Vunipola’s absence instead of Sale team-mate Tom Curry for the Six Nations.
Wilson is focused on success with Sale but admits it has been tough to handle. “People have been asking me are you gutted you’re not there? Obviously, I am,” said Wilson, who has 18 England caps since his debut in June 2017.
“I was expecting to come back from the World Cup, play a few games for Sale and be in contention again for the Six Nations, but it hasn’t happened that way and it’s been a different challenge.
“My main focus has been getting fit for Sale and playing well for them. I feel I owe them a lot and I am excited to play for them.
“It’s easy saying I want to be back in, but there’s plenty of work to be done before people start banging the drum about that.”
Sale will play Harlequins in the Premiership Cup final as they look to secure their first piece of silverware since lifting the Premiership trophy in 2006.
And Cumbrian Wilson prefers to focus on doing his bit for the Sharks while he’s on loan there from Newcastle rather than dwell on ‘what ifs’ with England. He will return to the north east come the end of the season, with a medal around his neck, he hopes.
“I’m incredibly excited about this back end of the season,” he said. “Turning up injured wasn’t ideal but everyone at Sale have been great with me, really supportive in getting me back in the best shape I can be and I’m looking forward to repaying them by showing what I am about.
“I know I’m only here until the end of the year and I want to add as much as I can and help the club in any way I can to achieve its goals.
Wilson adds: “Having a home final gives us a real good chance to win something, and opportunities like this don’t come around every day. You play in some big games in the Premiership that have a lot riding on them, but nothing quite beats knockout rugby.
“We’re also pushing for the top four in the league and rightly so. Not many teams go to Exeter and win, and the lads have taken huge confidence from that.”
With the RFU now saying that playing in the Championship will not preclude Saracens players from representing England, would Wilson have done things differently if that stance had been made clear when he made the decision to leave relegated Newcastle?
“No disrespect to the Championship, because there are some great teams in that league, but you want to be playing as high a level as you can and when both clubs and I discussed this deal, we thought it was best for everyone,” he explained.
“All parties thought they were getting something out of it. Not at any point did England say you’re not going to get picked as you’re playing in the Championship.
“In terms of Saracens, it will be interesting to see what happens. I can imagine a lot of those lads will still want to play top-level rugby throughout the season, but you never know what’s going to go on.”