Doran-Jones’ last appearance for the Red Rose came in the 2011 Six Nations defeat by Ireland but he has been frequently called into Stuart Lancaster’s set-up as cover.
While he can’t hide his frustration that this has not culminated in a first international start, Doran-Jones is adamant he has made great strides at Franklin’s Gardens.
Battling South African Brian Mujati, one of the Saints’ standout players last term, for the tighthead berth has brought the best out of him and Doran-Jones knows it is up to him to prove his worth to the eventual permanent England head coach in the Aviva Premiership run-in.
“It was tough to leave a place like Kingsholm where I had settled in very well but I have enjoyed my time so far and I have definitely improved as a player,” he said.
“That’s what I came here to do so although people said I would sit on the bench for the whole season but I have started 15 matches.
“I need that competition to keep pushing me on – I know if my performances are not quite right then I won’t be in the side for another couple of weeks.
“I feel that I have grown as a player. I have added more to my game and that has not quite manifested itself in more England appearances but I know I am not too far away.
“Dan Cole and Alex Corbisiero have done a decent job so maybe it is a case of trying to get a bench spot. I will just keep battling away and if I keep my form up and get more game time
“I obviously enjoyed training with the England squad and it was a great honour but at the same time it is difficult when you get brought in on Sunday and return on Thursday.
“It does make it difficult in terms of continuity. If you are called up for training and then are not involved, then you will not start at the weekend.”
One of the added benefits of a move to Northampton has been that he only packs down opposite Soane Tonga’uiha in training.
“He is a formidable opponent and you don’t relish the times you come up against him because he is a monster of a man,” added Doran-Jones.
Yet whereas last season Jim Mallinder was reliant on a handful of players who ultimately ran out of steam domestically and in Europe, now the Saints’ squad – swelled by Doran-Jones’ arrival – has far more strength in depth.
“We are missing a lot of international guys and we feel we have done well to win as many games as we have with so many guys away,” he said.
“It has given a lot of opportunities to step up and overall we have done much better in the second international period than we did in the first.
“We have grown as a squad and taken points from every match during the Six Nations. It has given us all confidence and I think that bodes well for the rest of the season with a full complement of players.”
If you buy a ticket for this year’s Aviva Premiership Final on 26 May you will receive a free rugby shirt. Go to www.premiershiprugby.com/freeshirt to buy yours.
© Sportsbeat 2012
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