Fired-up Wood showing his worth at Saints

Tom Wood has been in fine form for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Wood has been in fine form for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Eddie Jones might have to wait until February 6 to have an impact on the national team, but he has already had an indirect effect on Saints.

The term ‘England’s loss is Saints’ gain’ has been used fairly often at Franklin’s Gardens during the past couple of years, and it echoes around once again as the Six Nations approaches.

That is because Jones, the new England head coach, has opted not to hand Tom Wood a place in his squad for the forthcoming international battles, the first of which comes in Scotland a week on Saturday.

Instead, Wood was told to go away and work on his work rate, which is akin to a Duracell Bunny being told to improve its stamina.

Put simply, Jones has asked Wood to get better at the area of the game that he prides himself on.

And the Saints flanker has set about proving a point since he got the call informing him he would be staying at his club during the Six Nations.

Wood returned to action against Leicester on January 9

Wood returned to action against Leicester on January 9

“It was pretty blunt, as we’ve come to expect from Eddie,” said Wood.

“I don’t know him, I’ve never worked with him before but I did get a Christmas card, which I hoped was a good sign, but apparently not.

“He did give me a courtesy call to let me know that I wasn’t going to be involved in the squad this time round.

“He didn’t give me any reason that I can’t rectify. He didn’t tell me that the door’s closed and that’s it for me.

Wood was an influential figure in the win against Glasgow

Wood was an influential figure in the win against Glasgow

“He’s said what he wants from his No.6 is world class work rate so I’ve got to keep trying to prove myself in that sense.

“I’ve never taken my England place for granted and I always know I’ve got to earn it, but the work rate thing came as a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t sure whether he was picking a fight there or not.

“But the rest of it - I have been injured for a spell and I do recognise some other guys have been on form and since Eddie’s been in the country, I’ve mainly been injured.

“Other guys will have been playing well right in front of his eyes so I can take that on the chin, as long as I get a fair crack when I am playing well and on form. Then, I’m back in the shop window.”

Wood worked hard to help Saints secure a vital victory at Scarlets last Saturday

Wood worked hard to help Saints secure a vital victory at Scarlets last Saturday

And a fired-up Wood can only be great news for Saints.

That has been shown since Northampton’s answer to King Leonidas made his return from injury in the defeat at Leicester Tigers on January 9.

Saints were 21-0 down when Wood emerged from the bench during the first half, but he helped them battle back to 27-27 before they eventually lost to a last-gasp penalty.

He has since been one of the best players on the pitch in the Champions Cup wins against Glasgow Warriors and Scarlets, steering his club into the quarter-finals of the European competition.

And his value to any team he plays he in not underestimated at the Gardens, with Jim Mallinder labelling the 29-year-old ‘an awesome player’ and adding ‘he’d be in my team any day’.

Forwards coach Dorian West speaks about Wood in similarly glowing terms.

And at this week’s media day, West said: “I thought he was immense last week.

“We went through the stats and his work rate was unbelievable.

“He’s great to have around your squad, he sets a good example for everyone else and he’s a big part of the culture we have here.

“He demands the highest standards, so it’s going to be invaluable to have him with us.

“It’s not good for him personally, but we can only benefit.”

Back to that Jones impact on Northampton, and the England boss’s decision to name Dylan Hartley as his skipper for the Six Nations leaves Saints shorn of a leader.

With club captain Lee Dickson struggling for form so far this season and seeing his place in the side threatened by Tom Kessell, Wood’s leadership qualities will need to come to the fore.

“Woody is never shy about voicing an opinion about what we need to be better at and it’s great to have that sort of person around your team,” West added.

“It’s great for us to have him here.”

Such compliments will be music to the ears of Wood, who admits it was difficult not to be hurt by England’s decision not to select him for the Six Nations.

“It’s hard not to take it personally because you’re effectively being told that you’re not good enough and you’re dropped,” he said. “There’s no way to take that other than, ‘blimey’. It takes the wind out of your sails a bit.

“But I’m a realist and I’ve just got to take this time to reassess my own perfomances, my own goals. I’ve got plenty of good rugby left in me.

“A few good performances for Saints and everything turns around.

“Things change very quickly. They have just changed in the past few months, and they’ll change again in the next few months.

“Depending on how well the Six Nations goes, that will determine where I sit at the end of it.

“All I can do is control my end of the deal and make sure I’m playing well here at Northampton.

“What will help us more than anything is if Northampton are up at the top of the league, scoring tries and winning some games. Then, we’ll all be sitting a little prettier.

“At the minute, Saracens are the ones who have the bulk of the England side and that makes sense, doesn’t it?”

And though Wood admits he would have loved to have the chance to set the record straight after what happened in the World Cup, when England failed to make it out of the group stages, he knows his club is his bread and butter.

“Obviously the World Cup campaign’s been picked apart and it wasn’t the results we wanted,” he said. “We’re all very disappointed with that and to some extent it does feel like you just want to get back out there and put it right.

“I haven’t got that chance in the next few weeks, but the lads have, and I’m not going to get too bogged down about it.

“I’m going to try to stay as positive as I can, be a realist and recognise I will have another chance if I’m fit and playing well.

“I never belittle being in the England squad, it’s great to be there, but there are some perks (to being left out) and two months in a hotel does take its toll, especially when you’ve got a young family.

“I have to look at the positive side of it and lead from the front here with Northampton to make sure we get our domestic season back at the top end, where we want it to be, competing for silverware at the end of the season.”