- Tom Wood chats exclusively with RFUtv about playing amateur rugby in New Zealand
- Real appreciation of privileged position of professional rugby says England flanker
A rare grounding in the amateur rugby ethos of New Zealand is ensuring that Tom Wood makes the most of every opportunity available as the England and Northampton flanker strives for a spot in England’s Rugby World Cup squad.
As a 19-year-old the Coventry-born No.6 took a year off from the Worcester Warriors academy and headed to play club rugby in Oamaru, New Zealand, following a similar path to Martin Johnson some 18 years earlier.
Chatting exclusively to RFUtv, Wood candidly explained his motivations for the move and how it gave him an unerring appreciation of the priviledged position of professional rugby players.
"I just wanted to do something a bit different really," he said.
"I’d broken my leg, had a frustrating year with injury and not played a lot of rugby so I figured that I did not want a pre-season and spent all summer in the gym.
"I tried to buy into the whole thing [living in New Zealand] and got a lot out of it over and above rugby – rugby was the primary objective but as a life experience it was brilliant too. I tried to immerse myself in the culture and I was working full time.
"I find sometimes when you work all day for a living in rugby people get bored of it, I hear people moaning occasionally and you wouldn’t think that was the case but unfortunately it is.
"But in New Zealand it was a case of you work a hard, full day elsewhere and then come to training as your leisure time, as your release, as your enjoyment. And it was good to get that back in my game – remembering how lucky you are to do this for a living."
Photo: Getty Images
Wood’s stellar season has included international and domestic honours – with five consecutive Test caps after debuting in the Millennium Stadium against Wales and later being named 2011 Aviva Premiership player of the season.
While admitting it has been a whirlwind year, the ambitious 24-year-old says he was always aiming to reach the pinnacle of the game and is working hard to stay in the England set-up.
"I was always ambitious and looking to aim as high as I could but the way it’s panned out is as good as I could’ve expected or hoped for,” said the Northampton Saint.
"I was lucky to get off to a good start with Northampton. Northampton as a team got off to a good start which obviously was in my favour and there were a couple of injuries in the England team at a crucial time which gave me a bit of an opening.
"On the other hand you’ve got to be fit and in a position to deliver when you get a chance. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for me but I’ve absolutely loved being part of it and I’m working hard to make sure that stays the case."