- England back-rower looks back on days at Woodlands School
- “It’s hard to quantify the biggest game of your life. It's all relative” – Wood
At the age of 27, Tom Wood has already enjoyed an illustrious career with many heady highlights. After titanic performances in games such as an England debut at the Millennium Stadium and a ferocious Heineken Cup final with Northampton Saints, plus captaining his country in Argentina last summer, the back-rower can look back with a great deal of pride.
However, on making the draw for the NatWest Schools Cup quarter finals alongside Rob Andrew at Twickenham yesterday, Wood explained that his memories of schoolboy rugby rank among the very fondest.
“I played at Woodlands School in Coventry,” he said. “Neil Back and Danny Grewcock were former pupils and school heroes – they had their shirts hanging up in the trophy cabinet alongside their caps.
“We had a really big sporting culture and everyone was into everything – cross-country, athletics, rugby, football and cricket.
“Rugby was especially strong and I had some great mentors. Guys called Paul Harrison and Mike Thomas coached me throughout my school years and really went above and beyond in terms of giving us opportunities – technical coaching tips as well as great tours to Australia, following the Lions when both Neil and Danny were playing. It was a great school for rugby.”
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Reminiscing further, Wood – by his own admission a “gangly, intense” teenager – was certain about the particular game that stood out.
“It’s hard to quantify what is the biggest game you’ve ever played in your life. Obviously I’ve played against the All Blacks at Twickenham and there have been some big club clashes too, but at the time it’s all relative.
“I remember playing for my school against local rivals Bablake in the Coventry Schools Cup. At the time it was the biggest game of my life and meant the world to me.
“Mike Thomas, who I mentioned earlier, gave a pretty rousing speech and I was close to tears on my way out of the changing rooms. There was a lot of emotion involved.”
The NatWest Schools Cup sees over 1,000 schools compete for the chance to clinch silverware in front of thousands of spectators at Twickenham, and Wood finished by acknowledging such a brilliant opportunity for today’s youngsters.
“I played at Coundon Road, the old Coventry ground – that was in front of a few hundred people and it was a massive occasion that made me very nervous and anxious.
“To be at Twickenham in front of a decent crowd would have just blown me away. It’s a real opportunity for these guys.”
NatWest has launched the 'Show Your School's Colours' competition to enable schools participating in the NatWest Schools Cup to win a host of prizes. This kicks off with the chance for your school to have its quarter-final match streamed live on RFU.com.
To enter the competition and for more information on this year's tournament, visit www.rfu.com/natwestschoolscup