Tom Wood holding onto old-school values at RWC
Updated: September 16, 2011, 00:54
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QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand(AP) In an age where rugby union is fully professional and subject to the associated analysis, science and frills, England backrower Tom Wood's attitude is refreshing.
Wood opted out of the English academy system for a spell in 2006 to spend a season in New Zealand, where he worked full time and continued playing for the love of rugby.
"I got a lot out of the academy system at Worcester,'' Wood said. "I very much enjoyed my time there and they developed me as a player but I felt a lot of players were going through that kind of system and I needed something slightly different to give me the edge.
"It was more about coming back to grassroots rugby in a sense.''
Much as players were forced to split their time between jobs and rugby before the advent of professionalism in 1995, Wood worked hard outside of the game to test and develop his love for it.
What could have been a backward step at the time paid off. Seven months after making his international debut, the 24-year-old Wood has been picked at blindside for his Rugby World Cup debut in Sunday's Pool B match against Georgia.
"It's easy to become slightly snobbish when everything's done for you, and we are very well looked after,'' Wood said. "We're very fortunate, but you have to use that to your advantage and make sure the hunger and everything else is still there. I personally try and hold that close to heart. We're comfortable and that allows us to be at our best.
"If you haven't got everything else on your mind such as laundry, then you can focus on lifting as big a weight as you can in the gym and getting the right food and getting the right physio at the right time and making sure you're fit and strapped and playing at your best. You can't take that for granted.''
Wood worked on a farm in North Otago, helping build a cow shed and chopping wood, before working in an electrical appliance store, where he was in charge of making sure incoming goods were labeled and sent out onto the shop floor.
He returned to Worcester after his season in New Zealand, making his senior debut in 2007 before switching to Northampton. He made his England debut against Wales in February and helped England win the Six Nations during a season in which he was named the English Premiership's Player of the Season.
Having been on the sidelines for England's opening win over Argentina, Wood is set for some action against Georgia in Dunedin.
England is expected to triumph against a side it beat easily on the way to winning the 2003 title, but Georgia gave Scotland a tough time on Wednesday and could present another severe challenge to the English forwards.
"People always think about the advantages we have and the luxuries these players have, but at the end of the day it's 15 players against 15 players on a square of grass,'' Wood said. "You've got be willing to front up there on the pitch and a team that is perhaps limited in experience or limited in professionalism can go out there and make your life very difficult by being physical and getting in amongst it and just pressurizing you.
"That's what you've got to deal with. It doesn't matter whether you use a five-star bar of soap in the morning.''