Six Nations 2014: Tom Wood fired up to ‘right the wrongs’ of Cardiff defeat

The Northampton and England flanker tells Chris Hewett he is ready to ‘reciprocate’ the hurt inflicted by Wales last year

Rugby Union Correspondent

Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley have plenty in common. Both are fixtures in a Northampton pack that has carried all before them this season; both have been known to be just a little outspoken; both play a brand of rugby frequently described as “confrontational”, although many union followers would reject the word as a euphemism worthy of a career diplomat. One other thing. They are the only men in the current England side who started the Six Nations contest with Wales in 2011 – the last time the white shirt prevailed over the red.

So much has changed so quickly. Two other players preparing to face the reigning champions at Twickenham this weekend – the scrum-half Danny Care and the prop David Wilson – were among the replacements for the Friday night bash in Cardiff three years ago, but every other member of that 22-man party is either injured, out of favour, past it, or in retirement.

Yet some things never change, the highly spiced flavour of an England-Wales match being one of them. Sunday’s game is already generating a level of heat over and above the norm as a result of last season’s title decider at the Millennium Stadium, when Wood and his colleagues crossed the Severn Bridge with Grand Slam aspirations and ran smack-bang into inspired opponents who splattered them all over the Red Dragon capital. Not being a natural member of the “forgive and forget” brigade, the flanker is in the mood to “reciprocate”, as he calls it.

There is nothing personal about it, you understand. “I don’t think it’s about putting Justin Tipuric’s head on a dartboard for the next few days,” he says, referring to the Wales back-rower who played an eye-catching, highly productive role in driving his country towards the 30-3 victory that ensured the Six Nations crown would remain on the western side of Offa’s Dyke.

“If you allow yourself to be caught up in one-on-one battles, get too caught up in the hurt of last time, you can unravel yourself. You can’t just go out there on game day with your fists clenched, thinking about revenge. The important thing is to use the disappointment to fuel your analysis, your training, your preparation – everything you do in advance of the game. Getting all the detail right and leaving no stone unturned… that’s where the motivation has to be.”

All very cool and collected. Except when Wood is talking the fires are always smouldering somewhere beneath the unnervingly calm exterior. He still insists that England were in last year’s game for longer than many made out. “I don’t think we were bullied – a couple of passes didn’t stick, resulting in huge momentum swings, and we didn’t know how to get a grip on things when that happened, but we were right there for 50 minutes until the dam broke and points came very quickly,” he says. But he acknowledges the degree of pain inflicted.

“This,” he agrees, “is a chance to right what we felt was a wrong on that day. I’d be lying if I said we’re not still carrying an awful lot of hurt. It was a harsh lesson we were taught by opponents playing on real emotion. It was a tough one to take.

“But this will be a very different game. Look at the Heineken Cup games between Northampton and Leinster before Christmas – those matches showed that just because a team wins by 40 points one week, it doesn’t make them a 40-point better team. It just means that they got it right on the day. In the first game, the momentum was with Leinster and they punished us. The next week, we showed what we could do to them.

“If England played Wales 10 times in the next 10 weeks, you’d have different results every time. It’s about who gets into the game early, who gets the ascendancy, who gets on the front foot.

“The biggest lesson to take out of all this is that regardless of Welsh form, regardless of who’s in their team and who’s not, they are capable of lifting their game when it comes to playing against us on the big occasion when everything’s on the line, as it will be in this match. It would have been easy for us to be trapped when they suffered their heavy loss in Ireland last month, to be conned into thinking they’re not in brilliant shape. It’s good for us that they’re coming here on the back of a big win over France. It changes the mindset a little bit.”

Wood – and his fellow England flanker, the captain Chris Robshaw – were overlooked by the British & Irish Lions selectors for last summer’s tour of Australia, while Wales contributed no fewer than four back-row forwards: Tipuric, Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau. Lydiate did not face England last year, but the blind-side specialist with a penchant for scything opponents rather than merely tackling them is expected to start this time, with Tipuric on the bench.

Wood’s response is of the “so what?” variety. “They’re all very good players, so whoever they pick, they’ll have an effective back row,” he says. “Last year, people made a lot about them choosing Tipuric and Warburton, two No 7s, saying that they’d win turnovers throughout the game. It wasn’t necessarily the case. Tipuric played like a centre, making 40-metre breaks and putting people away with well-timed offloads. One of Warburton’s stand-out moments was breaking from his own 22. Lydiate is quite a different player, admittedly – you probably wouldn’t recommend running straight at him – but really, we have to concentrate on us.”

It seems nothing will deflect Wood from his purpose: not even the recently unearthed BBC promotional video that features supporters from the three Celtic nations identifying England as the team they most want to see defeated (as if this came as a surprise to anyone). “I guess it’s a compliment,” he says. “I hate everybody equally, so it doesn’t matter.”

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory