London: Tom Wood is relishing the prospect of Scotland coming to Twickenham in pursuit of a sporting kill in much the manner that England claimed the All Blacks’ scalp two months ago.
“We’ve gone from targeting New Zealand to being the target ourselves,” said back-rower Wood, who was man of the match against the All Blacks. “We’ve got to deal with all that, that change of expectation and the fact that Scotland will be more than happy to spoil the party at Twickenham.”
Wood does not expect the game on Saturday, with wet and windy conditions forecast, to be anything fancy. The make-up of the Scottish team tells you that, all brawn and purpose, and that suits Wood just fine.
“They’ve a big side, particularly in the second row with Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray, so they’re going to try and make life difficult for us in the line-out, driving mauls and the like. Given the weather, too, we might need some brawlers in there who will get their hands dirty, get down on the floor, go hard over the ball and put their head where it hurts. We’re quite happy with that.”
Wood is in a pretty constant state of pain these days, the legacy of a toe injury that flared up a year ago and which threatened to put him out of action for a couple of weeks. Eight months later he finally got back to playing, little the wiser as to precisely what had caused him to endure such misery.
At one point during those gloomy months of rehabilitation and removal from the front line, he thought his career might be over. Even now he has to take care as to how much duress he puts on his left foot. He has a specially tailored training programme, sitting out some sessions so as to avoid putting strain on his abnormally high arches.
“The physios call me ‘Bird-feet’,” Wood said. “It’s been tough to get it right. It’s been on a bit of a knife-edge. Having the weekend off from playing has really put me in a good place, though. The medics are very good at holding me back, which is perhaps what I needed in the
“Will it always be like this? I hope not but I’m fully prepared to put up with it if it is. It’s improved since the autumn but it’s still very much a day-to-day thing never mind week-to-week.
“Sometimes I have bad days and it flares up. It’s a question then of staying calm in those circumstances, getting ice on it and working to get the mobility back into it.”
Scotland will have no sympathy. They have picked a bruising back-row combination, much in the mould of England, with Saracens’ Kelly Brown on the openside alongside Johnnie Beattie and Alasdair Strokosch. The breakdown will not be any sort of place for the faint of heart.
Wood knows that he has to remain on top of his own game if he is to retain his place now that Leicester’s Tom Croft is back in the equation, if not yet match-fit. And the whole team are aware of the danger of being complacent after the defeat of the All Blacks. “We were written off after losing to South Africa then built up after beating New Zealand,” Wood said.
“Our job is to balance out the peaks and troughs. You take confidence from what’s going on in-house, not from what’s being said outside. You’ve got to govern yourself. The minute you become complacent in this game you’re undone.
“The All Black game is now our benchmark and that’s where we’ve got to get back to, regardless of the opposition or the occasion. Scotland are something of an unknown quantity and we’ve got to be ready for anything.”
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2013