Super skipper Wood has shouldered weight of Saints' expectations
Tom Wood has shouldered the weight of Saints' expectations this season.
The captain has not just embraced the role of skipper, he has let it become him.
And through an inconsistent season for his club, Wood has been a picture of consistency.
In the past four weeks, which have seen Saints rise from their slump to claim four successive wins, Wood has led from the front.
He has scored three tries and been man of the match, or close to it, in each of the games during the transition from 2016 to 2017.
And last Saturday against Castres, he made sure everyone followed his lead as Saints shrugged off a lack of meaning to their Champions Cup clash to produce a big performance.
Wood is almost certainly England-bound for the Six Nations.
Even if the country didn’t have back row problems, the Saints back row warrior would have to be in contention for starts.
But the 30-year-old, who joined Saints from Worcester in 2010, won’t be worrying about international action until the day he exits the Gardens for England duty.
Not only is his immense commitment to the cause appreciated by the Saints supporters, but he is also revered by his team-mates and the Saints coaches, even if some are surprised by his decision to stick with his lengthy locks.
“Some might say he needs a haircut, but apart from his hair he’s a good bloke to lead us forward,” said Saints and Wales wing George North, who could face Wood in the Six Nations.
“He’s been really good this season.
“Woody is someone who leads from the front. If something needs to be said, he’ll say it.
“As a club man he puts the squad first and that’s something you can never take away from him.
“He’s so passionate about the boys and what he can do to help the squad and to bring morale back up.”
And it is not just Wood’s honesty in the dressing room and in the media that impresses.
His playing capabilities are pretty vast, too.
“He’s played a lot of good rugby over the last few years but he’s certainly in form at the moment,” said Saints boss Jim Mallinder of Wood.
“In these past few weeks he’s probably playing some of his best rugby.”
As for the player himself, he has been trying to bring international class to his Saints shirt.
The flanker was out in the cold after England’s World Cup woe in 2015, but Eddie Jones recalled the Coventry-born player for the recent autumn internationals.
And Wood, who had initially been told to improve his work rate when Jones took charge of England last January, impressed, putting in big performances to help his country come through the series unscathed.
He has continued to kick on since the final game of the autumn, against Australia, and is working brilliantly in tandem with Teimana Harrison and Louis Picamoles in the Saints back row.
“For me and Teimana it is about working well as a partnership,” said Wood, who could be competing with Harrison for starts during the Six Nations, which begins against France at Twickenham on February 4.
“We are trying to play like international players back at our club sides, that is our incentive, to hopefully make it hard for the selectors.”
Wood is certainly doing that, but what there is no doubt about is his starting shirt and superb captaincy at Saints.