England flanker Tom Wood has emphasised the need for his team-mates to keep their emotions in check at the weekend in the second Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin.
Wood watched the first Test from the stands as he was involved in the Northampton Saints’ Aviva Premiership triumph. But while two of his Saints team-mates – Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes – have failed to break back into the starting XV for the second Test, Wood has seen off the challenge of James Haskell to re-take his blindside spot.
As England fell in Eden Park, they must win this weekend to tee-up a series decider in Hamilton next weekend but Wood has called for calm in the England ranks.
“Emotion is a powerful thing in rugby and when you get it right it’s a huge weapon,” he said. “But it can also completely undo you if you allow it to become completely about vengeance, hatred or anything else. If you allow that to overcome you, you’re in trouble.
“Emotion is only a good thing if you channel it correctly and that’s something we’ve learned from big games. I always think the bigger the game, the bigger the occasion, the simpler you make it.
“You like to think that on occasions like this the emotion will be there, the nerves will be there. Pre-match there’s a lot of expectation and hype and there’s an opportunity you don’t want to let slip. You like to think that emotion is a given, you just need to channel it in the right way. For me personally I know it will be there. I have to stay calm and focused.”
Wood will be playing in a familiar part of the world. In 2006 he spent eight months playing for North Otago while he was part of the Worcester academy. “I wanted to do something that was going to separate myself from the herd back in England,” Wood said. “I wanted to do something slightly different. I had been involved in the academy process over there which is a huge part of what I am as a player, but I wanted to do something that made me different.
“You can somewhat of a robot in that system because you are just like everyone else. I wanted to do something to make myself different and hopefully give myself an edge. I also wanted to go away from home, go away from my family and perhaps grow up a little bit as a bloke, never mind as a rugby player. Also experiencing the passion for rugby out here and the skill levels can only have been a good thing for me.”
Some of Wood’s family and friends will make the trip to watch him in action on Saturday and he wants to show them how he has progressed since his days at North Otago.
“I learned a huge amount but I certainly had a few leg-ups along the way. I would like to think that they have a vested interest in me and take some pride seeing me achieve. I would love to make them proud out here and display that in front of them all, close to home – hopefully by beating the All Blacks.”