- Tom Wood expresses disbelief at result on RFUtv
- Flanker impressed on first international start in 12 months
Tom Wood emerged from the England dressing room and expressed a sense of disbelief at the result after South Africa plundered a single point victory in the third QBE International at Twickenham Stadium.
Willem Alberts’ fortunate fifth international try and 11 points from the 100 per cent boot of fly half Pat Lambie were enough for Heyenke Meyer’s side to extend their unbeaten run over England to 11 matches.
Northampton Saints flanker Wood believes Stuart Lancaster’s team had the better of the Springboks by many of the game’s measures – topping possession and territory stats with 59 per cent and 60 per cent respectively – which leaves a bitter if not dispiriting feeling.
“That was a bitterly disappointing loss,” said the 26-year-old. “We felt we could’ve won, that’s the same for a couple of games on the bounce now.
“They’re a tough team, they played well in their pragmatic style and did what they do best. But I certainly felt that we had the better of them and were worthy of a win. It’s a difficult one to take to lose by a point with an unfortunate try.
"We defended the maul well, we defended them round the corner well, we forced the loose ball and hacked it downfield but it ricochets over our own line straight into Alberts’ hands.
"We got a couple of breaks – Manu’s interception, Goode’s stepping in the first half, Toby Flood’s grubber through for the corner – we needed things to bounce our way and on another day we win that game quite well."
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Wood was bullish in the media pre-match about how England needed to front-up to South Africa’s physical style of play and he certainly played his part in an all-action 53 minutes on the field. He was joint second in term of tackles, with 11 at 100 per cent, and hit 31 rucks while pilfering two turnovers.
Further analysing the game, Wood highlighted England’s ability to meet the physical demands South Africa present, while admitting 21-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth caused them difficulty at the front of the line out.
He said: “Our intent and our energy, especially on defence was a real plus for us. Considering the size of their pack and the physicality that was billed before the game, I thought we handled that really well with and our low tackle focus stunted their momentum.
“I think we got on top in the scrum and had some rewards but the line out was a struggle. The wet conditions didn’t help and them having a nine foot guy at the front of the line out, Eben Etzebeth, obviously caused us a few problems and narrowed our options quite significantly.
“The conditions definitely narrowed us up a bit too because your handling is put under more pressure, and the defence know that so they can get out of the blocks that bit quicker. It’s one of those things and the same for both teams so it’s not an excuse. But it does make life difficult when they’re playing that tactical kicking game.”
Wood’s 12th Test appearance was his first start since the pool stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup after a serious toe injury kept him out of the 2011 RBS 6 Nations and summer tour to South Africa.
His stats indicate consistent involvements in the game and Wood was pleased with his contribution, even if his stated aim to get “stuck into the breakdowns” led to an unfamiliar head guard clad look.
“My intent was to get stuck into the breakdowns and I think I made a nuisance of myself there,” he added. “I'm disappointed I couldn’t do more to stop the try – the ball did bounce my way but all my momentum was in the opposite direction and I couldn’t get hold of it – I’ll lose some sleep over that.
“But generally I thought my contribution was positive, I threw myself around and got stuck in. Took a good split straight down the middle of my head at the first breakdown which meant the head guard had to come out. Overall I’m trying to stay positive on the back of that tough loss.”