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Wood prepared for next Irish test

08 April 2011

  • Tom Wood better prepared for Irish intensity ahead of Ulster clash
  • Five England players in Saints side for Heineken Cup quarter final
England flanker Tom Wood looks dejected after Ireland score a try in the RBS 6 Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium

Photo: Getty Images

After the chastening defeat in Dublin last month, England flanker Tom Wood says he is better prepared to face Irish intensity in the Heineken Cup quarter final when Northampton Saints take on Ulster at stadium:mk on Sunday.

The 24-year-old impressed in his maiden RBS 6 Nations championship as Martin Johnson’s side put together a run of four wins before slipping up 24-8 to Ireland in Dublin.

Looking back to that game, Wood concedes England were caught out by the ferocity of Ireland’s fast start and says it impressed on him the importance of being ready for the battle, alongside the technical intricacies of the game plan.

"There's a danger that before the game you concentrate so much on the technical stuff, you figure out ways of winning in terms of plays, move and intricacies," said the flanker.

"Then you go out there and they're that up for it that none of it comes off. They're in your faces that bit quicker. It's a game about the gainline and the physical edge. Without that, the intricacies are a bit irrelevant.

"We got caught out a little bit in Dublin. We had a good game plan but were caught on the back foot too much. It killed us and we were out of the game after 15 minutes.

"We went into that game thinking we'll do what we've always done. We were up for it, but they came out at a different level and we have to live with what happened."

Big England contingent in Saints side

England flanker Tom Wood in action for Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership

Photo: Getty Images

Jim Mallinder’s Northampton have recorded back-to-back resounding wins at Franklin’s Gardens in the Aviva Premiership, seemingly over a mid-season slump which saw them lose six successive games.

Wood was ever-present for England in 2011 at No.6 but will start at openside against Ulster, alongside England colleagues Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.

Aside from lock Lawes, the Saints quartet started at the Aviva Stadium and much like the big international clashes, Wood believes seizing the initial momentum will be crucial in winning the game.

The Coventry-born star said: "Once you get a couple of yards of front foot ball, it accentuates from there. We feed our backs that kind of space and they're dynamite.

"It has a knock-on effect because if you don't get that edge early on it allows the opposition to grow into the game.

"That's why we lost our form a bit during the winter. Maybe guys were a bit tired because it's very hard to maintain the intensity we started the season with.

"You only need a few percent drop off in intensity and the game falls apart because you must be winning those 50-50s and taking that extra yard.

"We're up for Sunday, it's our home turf and it means so much to us. We need to bring the aggression and intensity levels up, so we're not caught out like in Dublin."

Play rugby as if your life depends on it – Wood

Northampton Saints flanker plucks the ball out of the air at an England training session

Photo: Getty Images

Wood has an insatiable appetite for work on the rugby field, optimised by his tough-tackling, high-intensity start to his five-cap England career.

When his attitude to rugby is to play as his life depends on it, it’s easy to understand why.

"The intensity and aggression comes naturally to me. I like being involved and love what I do," he added.

"The backs need cooler heads but forwards need to get stuck in and play as if their lives depend on it.

"You have to make it personal against the opposition. It isn't personal – afterwards you shake hands and have a beer – but on the field it has to be."