Wood happy to be home, but Saints’ form has yet to provide solace

Tom Wood admits the transition from England to Saints was surreal (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Wood admits the transition from England to Saints was surreal (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

The best way to get over losing is by winning.

So for Tom Wood, who suffered the gut-wrenching disappointment that England’s World Cup campaign brought, a return to a successful Saints team would have been the perfect tonic.

But it hasn’t quite worked out as the flanker would have hoped.

Because although Saints put Newcastle Falcons to the sword at stadium:mk in Wood’s first club game of the campaign, their performances have so far left a lot to be desired.

And at Sale on Sunday, they suffered their second defeat in as many Aviva Premiership away games this season.

Wood, true to his honest character, admitted the performance in the 20-13 loss was ‘rubbish’.

It was not what he or his team-mates wanted as they looked to build on the 42-16 success against the Falcons.

And it did nothing to provide comfort for those players who have been struck by World Cup woe.

“You’ve just got to find that bit of spark in your game and team performances are what help you provide that, it’s very difficult to do it as an individual,” said Wood, when asked how he has felt since returning to Saints.

“We have to make sure that we’re playing well as a team, functioning and back to our best rugby, then everyone looks good.”

Unfortunately for Saints, very few players could claim to have looked good in the defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Only one try was scored by Jim Mallinder’s men, with Stephen Myler going over during the second half to cut the gap to seven points.

And the whole encounter, played in front of little more than 5,000 fans, did little to help those men who will have looked on with envious eyes a day earlier, when New Zealand and Australia contested the World Cup final in front of 82,000 people at Twickenham.

“It’s been a bit surreal to be honest,” said Wood when asked how he has dealt with swapping England for Saints since his country’s pool stage agony.

“I obviously had big plans of being away for another month and it didn’t materialise.

“Obviously I’ve been dealing with the deflation on the back of the England campaign and settling back in, but the lads bring you back down to earth pretty quickly.

“You get back to work, get back on the training pitches with the boys and it’s just business as usual really.

“I feel well integrated and back part of the team now.

“It’s part of being an international player - you’ve got to adjust quickly, and it’s just rugby at the end of the day.

“I know the lads well enough and I’ve been around the team long enough to know my place.”

Wood was at least given a week off to deal with the disappointment he felt after England’s elimination.

He missed Saints’ Premiership opening-night defeat at Worcester, and was thankful to his club’s coaching staff for helping him overcome his heartache.

“It was crucial,” said the 29-year-old.

“I appreciated Jim and the lads giving me that bit of breathing space. I’m not making excuses, there are many positives playing for England, but one of the down sides is the time you spend away from home and your family.

“I’ve got three young kids and it was just nice to have a bit of time at home in my own bed, have some time around the kids and just get back to some sort of routine and normality.

“Then you can saddle up for a long, old season.”

Wood and his England team-mates may already feel like they’ve played a full campaign, such was the intensity of the World Cup.

Months of preparation, including a training camp in Denver, went in to getting the Red Rose ready for the international tournament on home soil.

And Wood said: “It did seem to go on forever in the end.

“The World Cup itself was pretty short-lived for us, but we were out in camp since mid-June with away trips to Denver and things like that.

“It was great fun and something I loved doing - I’m not complaining for a second - but the time away from home is one of the few down sides and one of the struggles of it.

“So it was nice of the coaches to give me a week just to feel at home again, settle in and gather my thoughts to push on for Saints.”

Wood is now in good condition as he looks to help Saints get back to the form that propelled them to the top of the Premiership last season.

“I do feel pretty good physically,” he said. “I feel relatively injury free.

“I’m usually carrying a few things like Achilles, knees and things like that which niggle away, but I’m feeling pretty good at the minute.”

And he will need to be, with a testing run of games lying in wait.

After Saturday’s game against unbeaten Saracens at the new-look Franklin’s Gardens, Saints face back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures, against Scarlets and Glasgow Warriors.

But Wood is refusing to hype up those games, instead focusing on Saints’ recent performances and looking at how they can improve.

“Every game’s a big game, we never belittle a game,” he said.

“Whether it’s Worcester away or Saracens at home, it doesn’t matter to us. We prepare and play the same way, or at least intend to play the same way - it doesn’t always come off for us.

“We prepare the same, give it our all and try to get our best rugby out on the field.

“Unfortunately, on days like Sunday, we just don’t manage it.

“I don’t know whether it’s sub-conscious, switching off or what, or thinking it will all be alright on the night.

“It’s narrow margins, a few per cent here and there and teams in this league can beat anyone on their day so we need to be more aware of that in the future.”