Northampton prop tells Sky Sports of his fight for playing time
By Alex Williams. Last Updated: September 21, 2012 5:48am
He may have made a slightly slow start to his career at Franklin's Gardens, but Northampton prop Tom Mercey is determined to establish himself in the Saints' starting line-up this season.
Mercey has struggled for first-team opportunities since his move from Saracens two years ago, with the likes of Brian Mujati proving hard to displace from tighthead position in the front row.
The time spent on the periphery has not quelled the 25-year-old's desire, however, and his efforts were rewarded with a first start of the new campaign in the victory over Bath last Friday.
As his luck would have it he was forced off with a calf strain in the first half of that contest, but Mercey believes that will only be a minor setback to his ambitions.
"I started last week against Bath and, sod's law, came off injured after about 35 minutes," he told Sky Sports.
"With the squad we've got and the systems we've got in place this season, there should be some more rotation. Hopefully there will be opportunities and I'm pushing hard now to try and get fit.
"Certainly everyone within the squad is pretty peeved off every week if they are not selected in the starting XV.
"I think to have a squad that isn't in that kind of mindset when they're not selected is pretty unhealthy. Everyone is standing by to get that starting spot and get involved every week."
Mercey admits that playing at one of the top-flight's elite teams means the fight for playing time will always be intense, but he also believes it gives him a better opportunity to showcase his abilities when he is given the chance.
He added: "I moved from a strong club to another strong club and as a young prop there is always going to be competition.
"It's all about building confidence with the coaches and taking the opportunities when they're given to you.
"Certainly there are positives and negatives for me. Have I been involved as much as I wanted to be previously? No. But when I have, I'm surrounded by such quality players that it really helps.
"I'm biding my time and hopefully when my opportunity does come I can take it and certainly this season I'm aspiring to play a bit more."
In the two years Mercey has been at Northampton his side has suffered semi-final heartbreak in the play-offs twice, with last season's narrow defeat to Harlequins being particularly agonising.
Mercey believes the memory of those losses is one of the driving forces behind the team this year.
He said: "One of the strengths of Saints over the last three or four years has been that continuity that we've had in the squad.
"Certainly there are the key guys that are still around that have that in the back of their memories. So to have that and have the previous season, in terms of losing at some pretty pinnacle points, can only now help us as a team.
"We've been to those points and understand what it takes to get there and equally how bad it feels to lose. Certainly we've got the motivation there to aspire to do well this season."
Tom Mercey was speaking on behalf of QBE, Official Business Insurance Partner of Premiership Rugby. To win a specialist training session with Premiership Rugby coaches and players enter the QBE Rugby Pro competition at QBErugby.com