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Wood For Debut

England Cap For Northampton Flanker

Posted Feb 04, 2011 by John Casson

With the build up to the Six Nations having nearly reached it’s conclusion, the last thing any of the countries participating needed was a glut of injuries.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Martin Johnson and his England side have received.  Of the three injury related changes that England have been forced to make preceding their fixture against Wales on Friday, one of the most surprising selections has been the drafting in of the 24 year old Northampton flanker Tom Wood for his first England cap.

With the current England captain Lewis Moody still recovering from his own injuries (who is anticipating a return in the Feb 26th crunch game against France), Wood was considered the ideal replacement following his superb form in the Heineken Cup pool stage.  Whilst the youngster is inexperienced, England will be hoping that he can both perform as a flanker whilst also fulfilling a similar role in the line-out to the also injured Tom Croft: at 6’4. Wood certainly has the height to perform the role.

Martin Johnson was typically honest regarding the new boy’s chance in the side.  ‘It's a chance for Tom to come and play. Would he have got there with all the guys fit? He probably wouldn't, but he's worth a look and worth his place – he was very impressive in the autumn when he came in and the way he's playing, most importantly, with his club, he's a pretty impressive player.’  The England coach commented.

Inevitably, talk has already turned to the World Cup which will take place later this year, with the All-Blacks holding home advantage.  With the Six Nations being the last chance the various nations will have to play in a tournament environment before New Zealand, many are going to be observing it for clues as to form and performance.  Not to mention the morale boost it will present to the victorious side. 

Johnson, though, is refusing to get sucked into the debate.  ‘Despite what's happening later in the year – we all know about that – the Six Nations tournament is a stand-alone: if there were no other games for six months, it would still be a big game. We've got to go out there and perform with real tempo in what we do, real accuracy, real passion – that'll put us in a good place.’

All eyes will be on Wood and England to see how they will kick off their campaign.

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