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.”

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little