Saints star Wood says England must embrace Grand Slam talk

BIG AMBITION - Saints and England's Tom Wood is targeting Grand Slam glory
BIG AMBITION - Saints and England's Tom Wood is targeting Grand Slam glory

Saints star Tom Wood insisted England must embrace the fact they are now just two steps away from winning a first Grand Slam in a decade, following their 23-13 victory over France.

Two years ago, Martin Johnson effectively banned all talk of a clean sweep as England built towards their decisive game against Ireland.

But the decision to keep preparations low-key backfired.

England were blown away in Dublin by an Ireland side who relished the prospect of ruining the Grand Slam party on St Patrick’s weekend.

Wood stressed England must learn from those mistakes heading into their games against Italy at Twickenham and Wales in Cardiff.

The Northampton forward is not afraid to frame those fixtures in a Grand Slam context because he is convinced England will not get carried away with the hype.

“We took the approach a couple of years ago where we just batted back (questions about the Grand Slam) as much as we could and refused to talk on the issue,” Wood said.

“You’ve got to entertain the fact that that’s going to be a huge expectation and that it is going to be something the opposition want to take away from you as well.

“That’s extra motivation for them.

“We have to be ready for that extra desire in the opposition that comes with trying to rob the English of a potential party.

“The second we forget what got us here, we are in trouble.

“We’ve got very grounded coaches that instil that in us from the start.

“We like to play things down, not get ahead of ourselves and make sure we are always working hard.

“It’s important we stick to those values. We are a very tight group, a very humble group I like to think.

“But within the camp we have a lot of faith in each other.

“I look around the huddle before a game and I think ‘I’m glad he’s on our side’.

“That goes for every player. I’ve got a lot of faith in the guys around me and I’ve got that faith because I see the way they work day in, day out.”

The Twickenham public will expect England to beat Italy and tee up a shot at the Grand Slam against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on the final weekend of the Six Nations.

But Wood cannot look that far ahead.

He views Italy, even without the great Sergio Parisse, as too much of a potential banana-skin.

“We talked about how easy it was to get up for the All Blacks game in December. It’s important for us to be up for the game no matter what the opposition,” Wood said.

“All our motivation and all our self-belief comes from what we do in the week, the way we inspire each other.

“It’s the will to work through for one another.”

That character, drive and determination carried England to victory over France, who were the better team for most of the first hour in a brutal contest.

But England hung in there with the likes of Wood and Chris Robshaw battling heroically with the French back row.

Manu Tuilagi’s try after 54 minutes, created by Wood’s hack from the bottom of a ruck, put the home side in control and they dominated the final quarter.