Tom Wood: We're ready to have a Calcutta Cup brawl

Northampton enforcer says injury-hit England are relishing the prospect of a 'down and dirty' battle with Scotland

All things being equal, Stuart Lancaster would not have made a single change to his England side for this weekend's intriguing Calcutta Cup set-to with Scotland at Twickenham: even the most meddlesome selectors tend to leave well alone after runaway victories over New Zealand. But Lancaster lost two of his top-of-the-bill acts just recently, so he had no choice but to tinker.

The first of the absentees – Manu Tuilagi, aka the "human bowling ball" – should be back in business by the mid-point of the Six Nations, by which time Billy Twelvetrees of Gloucester may have muddied the midfield waters with some big performances at inside centre. The second, the loose-head prop Alex Corbisiero, will not be available for Test duty until the end of the season, if then. The best-case scenario has him playing for London Irish some time in March. The worst-case scenario is too grim to contemplate.

Tom Wood, the red-rose enforcer who won the man-of-the-match plaudits against the All Blacks before Christmas and will start on the blind-side flank against the Scots, knows how he feels. Corbisiero's knee condition, so chronic that the front-rower has just undergone a third bout of surgery since last summer, may never clear up completely, just as the foot injury that threatened Wood's career still needs careful management. Wood may be back in the swing of things at international level after spending much of 2012 on the sidelines, but he must train differently from everyone else in the squad if he is to keep himself fit.

"I had a good chat with Alex during the training camp in Leeds," said the Northampton back-rower. "He's a bit concerned, which is understandable. He doesn't want to disappear off the radar, especially at a time like this when the big games are around and the pressure is on. But I also think he's confident he'll be back. Sometimes, you just react badly to a rehabilitation programme. After this latest operation, things could be different for him. He just needs to be patient.

"As for me, I feel fit and ready to go. But even though I want to do all the training, the medics are being very cautious with me and are good at holding me back. Perhaps that was what I needed in the first place, although I hope it won't always be like this. At least there are ways of letting off steam if I can't train with the squad. I spend a lot of time in the gym, hammering the weights and the exercise bike." If Scotland were once renowned for a fast and loose approach to back-row selection, they have gone for size this time round by picking two very solid citizens, Alasdair Strokosch and Kelly Brown, on the flanks. It is almost as if they made their choice with Wood in mind. If so, the Englishman is more than happy to meet the visitors' expectations.

"They've named a big, physical unit, and as we are expecting wet conditions on Saturday, it will be real battle up front," he said. "We'll need some brawlers – people who will get on the floor, down and dirty, and put their heads where it hurts. We're happy with that. Scotland will come out full of fire and put pressure on us, so it's up to us to deal with it, to govern ourselves.

"The challenge for this England team is to reproduce the intensity we generated against the All Blacks regardless of opposition or occasion. That's our benchmark now, the place we have to get back to each time we play. Just because we beat New Zealand by running in some tries, it doesn't mean it will automatically happen again. Consistency is ingrained in the All Black culture and, like them, we have to realise that no one game is more important than another."

With Twelvetrees preparing for his international debut – Brad Barritt, the first-choice No 12 in recent games, will move out one position to make way for the newcomer – the England midfielders have much to prove. The pack, however, is more rooted, with Joe Marler of Harlequins expected to be confirmed as Corbisiero's replacement.

Meanwhile, the much talked about Leicester teenager George Ford has spoken for the first time about his impending departure from Leicester – almost certainly for Bath, where his father, Mike, the former England defence coach, now works. "Playing a full 80 minutes is what I need to be doing," said the 19-year-old England Saxons outside-half, who will feature against Scotland's second string in Newcastle on Friday night. "It was one of the toughest decisions I've had to make and I didn't take it lightly, but the more you play, the better you get. It's difficult when you're on the bench, coming on for 10 or 20 minutes each game."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee