It's make-or-break time, insists Northampton flanker Tom Wood
England discard Tom Wood feels the derby-day visit of Wasps marks the start of a make-or-break period in Northampton's season.
The Saints find themselves in the unusual position of being outside the Aviva Premiership play-off places, with an indifferent campaign leaving them seven points behind fourth-placed Leicester.
But Wood - who was dropped by new England coach Eddie Jones after being a mainstay of the Stuart Lancaster era - insists Northampton can turn their fortunes around during the time of the season when international players will be absent.
"To be effectively dropped from the squad is not good for your ego," Wood told the Saints podcast.
"But I'm just looking forward to getting stuck into the next few weeks now.
"It's a period that could make or break our season.
"We haven't had the best results in the Premiership, but we're still in the fight and a couple of months of good rugby now can put us in a great position for the run-in."
Wasps are two points behind Saints in sixth place, but Dai Young's side travel to Franklin's Gardens encouraged by the 51-10 demolition of Leinster in the European Champions Cup.
They also won their last Premiership game against Worcester and remain confident of forcing their way into the play-off picture.
"It's going to be a tough midlands derby," Wood promised.
"Wasps are in great form and we've seen them put in some big performances against the likes of Toulon, and then Leinster last week.
"They're flying high, so we recognise the challenge but we'll always back ourselves, especially at home."
The depth of Wasps' squad will be tested during the RBS 6 Nations with Joe Launchbury, James Haskell, Bradley Davies and Ruaridh Jackson among those away on international duty.
But centre Brendan Macken feels Wasps will be able to cope, starting on Friday when they attempt to win at Franklin's Gardens for the first time since 2005.
"When you look at the squad Dai has built here, we're lucky that we have good guys who can step in and do a job," Macken told the official club website.
"Guys come in and they'll be a cog in a wheel that will keep turning.
"There's a great squad mentality here and when someone isn't fit or somebody is away on international duty, the next guy is there waiting to step up and show what they can do.
"Friday night's a huge one. Saints are sitting just above us in the league so, if we can go to Franklin's Gardens and get a result, it would be brilliant."