World Cup winner Lewis Moody is backing Northampton’s Tom Wood to take his injury frustrations out on Southern Hemisphere flankers this autumn by excelling in an England jersey.
The 25-year-old suffered a frustrating campaign for Saints last term, suffering a foot injury that restricted him to just 14 starts and missed out on the Six Nations and also England’s tour to South Africa.
He has been forced to watch on from the sidelines as Chris Robshaw claimed the England captaincy last February – a role Wood was tipped to be handed by England’s new boss Stuart Lancaster.
While the likes of Exeter’s Tom Johnson, Gloucester’s Ben Morgan and Leicester’s Thomas Waldrom have emerged from relative obscurity to cement England spots alongside Robshaw, James Haskell and Leicester’s Tom Croft in a crowded England backrow.
But according to former skipper Moody, Wood is a favourite of Lancaster and his class is not in question, having won back his place in the England squad for the autumn without proving his fitness or hitting top form for Northampton yet this season.
“Before he got his foot injury everyone was talking about him as a potential England captain, but obviously that was taken out of his hands,” said Moody, who was speaking at the LV=Cup launch at Royal Wotton Bassett RFC in Swindon – chosen as the venue because LV=Breakthrough Award winner 2012, Gloucester’s Jonny May, plied his trade at the club before reaching the Aviva Premiership.
“And then he has to sit there and watch the boys play in South Africa and watch Tom Johnson come from essentially nowhere to take that England spot.
“That is not easy let me tell you, and while he would have been pleased for Tom it would have been killing him.
“He will be thinking ‘that number seven jersey should be mine’, and he is perhaps right, but it is Tom Johnson’s to lose now.
“So not only will Tom Wood be taking on whoever he is up against, he is also taking on Tom Johnson I suppose and the rest to prove that they should be on that teamsheet.
“I think Tom Croft, when fit, will have one of those positions sewn up but this is a chance for Tom Wood to come back and show what he can do with Croft injured still.
“I am excited to see what he can bring. I imagine he will be a man possessed which is bad news for England’s opponents this autumn.”
Despite a significant injury break, Moody is convinced Wood is already putting in the sort of performances for Northampton that originally saw catapulted into the England reckoning under previous international boss Martin Johnson.
Clearly a favourite of newly installed England boss, Lancaster – Moody is convinced the Northampton man will get his chance to shine at some stage this autumn.
“The thing you need to know about Tom Wood’s ability is that he was out for a very long time but at the first sign of a comeback he is back with England,” added Moody. “That speaks volumes of just what a talent he is.
“He doesn’t look like he has missed a beat since he returned from injury so I was not surprised to see him back in the England squad at all.
“The worrying thing for his rivals for that flanker spot is that he is going to be an added threat this time around and he will get an opportunity – that’s for certain.”
The LV= Cup kicks off on Friday, 9 November. Watch the next generation break through. For tickets and info, visit www.lv.com/rugby