Happy days in Oamaru recalled

Tom Wood speaks at an England team press conference at the Southern Cross Hotel in Dunedin this...
Tom Wood speaks at an England team press conference at the Southern Cross Hotel in Dunedin this week. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The year English loose forward Tom Wood spent in Oamaru was special. He improved his rugby and met his partner.

Wood (24) played for the Valley club and 10 games for North Otago in 2006.

"It was beneficial in lots of ways," Wood said. "It was an opportunity to come out here and play a different type of rugby."

He had been playing in the academy system in England.

"It was a very professional environment and I got a lot out of it," he said. "Out here, rugby is different, with more instinctive play.

"I played week in and week out in a genuine competition. At home, we played one-off games and they don't have the bigger picture in mind.

"Over here, you are in a league table and points and winning games are important. It gives you a different approach to a game."

The season with the Old Golds helped Wood's rugby career.

"I was a young lad and I got to play senior rugby against grown men," he said. "I had experienced players around me and learnt my trade."

One of his favourite spots in Oamaru was Fat Sally's Restaurant, where he ate a lot of meals and met his future partner. Sarah Armstrong followed Wood back to England and the couple have a son, Oliver (2).

While based in Dunedin, Wood returned to Oamaru to present the owner of Fat Sally's, Sally-Ann Donnelly, with a framed English jersey.

"It was a definite plan of mine to come out here to try and become a better rugby player," he said.

"I learnt a lot outside rugby as well and got to do things we don't usually do back home like night shooting and surfing.

"I met my partner and couldn't be happier. I can't thank the people of North Otago enough for the way they looked after me and made me feel welcome."

Wood is on the bench for tonight's game against Romania but is hoping to make an impact on England's third game at Otago Stadium.

"I want to have as big an impact as possible and make sure I don't come on and let exuberance and enthusiasm get in the way of me playing well. I must have a cool head."


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