- Northampton Saints flanker reflects on excruciating Dunedin defeat
- “We want to win things and we want to win them now” – Wood
A characteristically uncompromising Tom Wood revealed the deep-seated sense of frustration in the England changing room after their “excruciating” 28-27 defeat to New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.
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Typically forthright, honest and passionate, Wood refused to take solace in another performance that troubled the world champions in patches, not least over a first 40 minutes that saw the tourists go in 10-6 ahead at half-time.
Instead, the Northampton Saint – who punctuated his dogged individual effort with 17 tackles – bemoaned some nagging inaccuracies and a second-half spell that saw the All Blacks score three tries in quick succession.
“We’re fuming, to be honest,” he said. “There’s disappointment, but mainly it’s a feeling of anger that we did so much right, put so much into it but ended up coming away with nothing.
“That third quarter killed us. We couldn’t get a grip on the game and handed them too much easy ball. Once you’re on the back foot you can’t stem the tide because they are too good. It’s all about concentration and making sure you get the little things right so they don’t get that momentum.
“A lot of the credit goes to them because they are such a dangerous side, but there is some blame that lies with us as well. The answer is to not get in that situation, to stop it at source by being organised from the start. When we do that well, even the best players make mistakes.”
Wood was one of six England players to make line-breaks in the opening stanza as England’s forwards largely outmuscled their adversaries in the tight exchanges. Far more assured under Aaron Cruden’s restarts than they had been in Auckland, Stuart Lancaster’s charges built a 10-0 lead on the back of Marland Yarde’s close-range try.
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However, as Wood stood in the tunnel at Forsyth Barr Stadium, that advantage felt like a lifetime away. Exuding the authority of a key leadership figure under back-row colleague Chris Robshaw, he suggested England’s learning process would need to start yielding results very soon.
“I thought we played some good rugby when we got on the front foot with ball in hand. We had a well-functioning lineout drive and we built a solid platform. Unfortunately we coughed that up in the first 10 minutes of the second half. We were still in the changing room unfortunately.
“There are no excuses – it just wasn’t good enough. We didn’t come here to be valiant losers and we didn’t come here to be runners-up to the world number one. We want to be where they are and to do that we need to take the next step. We’ve shown we have all the attributes; we just need to put it together for 80 minutes.
“At some point you’ve got to put the lessons into practice. We can use all the excuses we want about being a young team, but that’s not acceptable for this group. We want to win things and we want to win them now.
“Of course there’s a bigger picture in mind building towards the future – but for the guys pulling the shirt on and going out on the field it’s about winning today, winning every collision and every minute of the game – the here and now.
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“To lose by a point is excruciating because we had them on the rack. It’s all very well me standing here now and saying that but you have to finish the job. Until we’re beating them convincingly and repeatedly, there’s no point going over the what-ifs and the maybes. They got the job done and we didn’t.”
England now head to Hamilton for the third Test in pursuit of a consolation victory before returning home. New Zealand are the first visitors to Twickenham this autumn too, meaning the sides will have met five times in a calendar year.
Acknowledging the importance of having an immediate chance for redemption, Wood reinforced his desire to end this tour on a winning note.
“That’s the only way you improve your game – playing against the best in the world and continuing to evolve against that kind of competition. I won’t be happy if we lose to them by a point though.”