Pampered England must still front up: Wood

England's Tom Wood poses for photos at Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. Photo: REUTERS/Stefan Wemuth
England's Tom Wood poses for photos at Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. Photo: REUTERS/Stefan Wemuth
England have wanted for nothing on this World Cup trip, with luxurious hotels, bespoke nutrition and training, and even dwarf-racing laid on for them, but for no-nonsense flanker Tom Wood, rugby remains the most basic of games.

"We're very fortunate but you have to use that to your advantage and make sure the hunger is still there," said the flanker hoping to get his first taste of World Cup action against Georgia on Sunday.

"I personally try to hold that close to heart. If you haven't got everything else on your mind such as laundry and stuff, then you can focus on lifting the biggest weight you can in the gym and getting the right food and getting the right physio at the right time and making sure you're at your best.

"But at the end of the day it's 15 players against 15 players on a square of grass.

"It doesn't matter whether you use a five-star bar of soap in the morning, you've got be willing to front up and a team that is perhaps limited in experience or professionalism can go out there and make your life very difficult by being physical."

Georgia fit that bill and Wood said that he expected them to be more effective under the roof of Dunedin than in the rain of Invercargill, where they lost to Scotland in their first game on Wednesday.

"They'll be playing on pure passion and adrenaline," he said. "They're a proud team and I don't think the four-day turnaround will affect them. I think it'll make them more resilient.

"They'll be battle-hardened and up for it. They won't give us an inch of space or respect, they'll plough into us and they're a tough bunch of lads."

So too, are England, for which they do not always get credit.

Towards the end of their clash with Argentina it was the "teak-tough" Pumas who were littering the turf as England's big men eventually wrestled control of an intensely physical match.

Wood, who has looked assured in the white shirt from the moment he made his debut in this year's Six Nations, is among the hardiest of the squad and owes something of a debt to the host nation for that.

While being groomed for life as a professional at Worcester's academy, the 18-year-old Wood felt he needed something extra and decided to up sticks and head to New Zealand.

Nine months of working on a farm and labouring by day and training with his North Otago club by night certainly shook him out of any comfort zone.

"A lot of players were going through the academy system and I felt I needed to do something different to give me the edge," he said.

"It was more about coming back to grass-roots rugby. I was working full-time and playing for the love of it.

"I felt like I needed to get that attitude back in my game. You've got to make sure the hunger is still there and I try to hold that close to my heart."

When he joined the England squad for the first time for this year's Six Nations, manager Martin Johnson said he was a player who immediately seemed at home in the international environment and he subsequently produced a series of assured performances in the back row to help England win the competition for the first time in eight years.

It did not take him long to realise that England are the team everyone else wants to beat. "Everyone wants to take us down a peg or two, I think that's the attitude," he said.

"You watch a team play somebody a week before and do your analysis on them, you think they're quite a beatable team, they didn't play that well, but then they come and play a blinder against us.

"That's the kind of pressures we deal with but we're happy with that. We'd rather be the team on the pedestal that everyone's trying to beat rather than a team that no one cares about."

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