Tom Wood has a unique take on what makes a nice day out.
“I like nothing better than being spat at, when your backs are against the wall, being told you’re not good enough,” he says as he recalls England’s beatings at the Aviva and Millennium Stadiums.
“Nothing unites a team more than that. The Twickenham crowd is a very polite crowd, very passionate. Nothing like the hatred we get. That could be a double-edged sword.
“We’re not asking that from our fans. We just want them to be proud of us, of what we do. And hopefully we will give them something to cheer about.”
It is fair to say the England flanker is not one to downplay the emotional intensity of an international, certainly not one as brutal as the clash with Ireland will be tomorrow.
Wood still sees England as the scalp the Celts want, Twickenham the citadel they want to storm, Centuries of hatred encapsulated in 80 ferocious minutes. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“All Celtic teams are very emotional and when they play England they will raise it,” he growls.
“In the big games they build it. It is a desire to beat us that has been ingrained in them for a long time. Emotionally they have been brought up in it.
“That is a challenge in itself. Rugby is a very emotional game and when a team collectively brings it you have to match it.
“In front of our fans we want to be setting the standards in energy, intensity, enthusiasm and physicality and make sure it is us dictating terms to Ireland and not the other way round.”
England are trying to tap into that emotion in any way possible. Against Ireland the team coach will stop in the west car park and the players will disembark to walk the last few hundred metres to the ground through the crowd.
Does Wood think it’s a good idea?
“I’d run from here if necessary,” he barks, leaving little doubt that the 20 miles between the team hotel and HQ would barely cause him to break sweat. If Stuart Lancaster is the brains at the centre of the England operation then Wood is its beating heart.
“Are we reconnecting with our heritage as an England team? It is something that is within English people in general. It is something that has been lost, gone out of focus and we are trying to re-connect with it, trying to be shining examples with it.
“We want people to look at us and see what it means to be English. So we aren’t manufacturing it, trying to drum it up out of nothing. I think it is there, it’s easy to believe when it is out there in front of you, and we just need to display it.”
And what of Ireland? Two games, two wins, 54 points scored and nine conceded. Are they ready for a Grand Slam? And can England’s pack come of age?
“Ireland are certainly not invincible by any stretch of the imagination,” is Wood’s response. “I hope one day we will look back and say this was a defining moment for this England pack; they delivered on the big stage and that match was a big stepping stone. But I am not going to say that [it is a decisive game] now, we’ll see what happens first.
“Can our pack be talked about in the same terms of that of 2003? In terms of potential we’ve got that within our pack.
“Those kind of names are all legends, all-time greats and that does not come overnight. You can have a Man of the Match and that does not make you a Johnson or Dallaglio.
“To get to that legendary status you need to back it up week in, week out. You need to do it too when you are the target, when you are on the pedestal.
“And that’s a difference challenge again. I have got every faith in our pack. I think we are a very competitive unit, forging a real bond.”
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