Tom Wood is geared up for another Twickenham battle royal as England go from being the hunters to the hunted in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown with Scotland.
Wood was man of the match when England’s back row outplayed the much-vaunted New Zealand loose trio and set the platform for a record 38-21 home win against the world champions in December. But Scotland are marching on Twickenham with an army of powerful and abrasive forwards, led by captain Kelly Brown, with ambitions of turning the tables on England.
Wood is relishing the challenge and is confident England can reproduce the intensity that accounted for the All Blacks.
“It sounds big and physical. It looks as if we are expecting wet conditions and a real battle up front. We’re quite happy with that,” Wood said. “We will need some brawlers in there who will get on the floor, get dirty and put their head where it hurts.
“If Scotland come out full of fire and determined to put pressure on you, they can get in among you and knock you off your game.
“That’s what we did to New Zealand. We’ve gone from targeting New Zealand to being the target. So we have to deal with that. The challenge for us to reproduce that [intensity from the All Blacks game] regardless of the opposition or occasion. That’s our benchmark and that’s where we’ve got to get back to. That’s in all aspects of our game, not just the breakdown.”
Consistency of performance, handling expectations and dealing with being favourites has been a theme of England’s preparations for the RBS Six Nations. Andrew Strauss was invited by head coach Stuart Lancaster to address the squad on how England’s cricket team built a side that rose from fifth to first in the world.
Jessica Ennis’ coach Toni Minichiello also gave an insight into how the London 2012 poster girl handled the expectation and still delivered at the Olympic Games. England face a similar challenge at Twickenham on Saturday. Scotland have not won there in 30 years and were beaten by Tonga on their last outing. England, meanwhile, thumped the All Blacks.
The expectation will be for a home win but England refuse to under-estimate Scotland. The two sides have not been separated by more than a converted try in four matches. “Scotland have already stated that they like nothing better than coming to Twickenham to spoil our party,” Wood said. “Performing with consistency like the All Blacks is something that’s ingrained in your culture and that’s something Stuart [Lancaster] set up right from the start. No matter who you’re playing. Just because we beat the All Blacks and did so convincingly, running in some tries, that doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen again.
“Scotland are a different opponent, present a different challenge and we need to govern ourselves in that respect. We’re about working hard, going about your processes, doing your analysis. No one game is more important than the other.”
Lancaster will confirm England’s starting line-up today and it is expected to include a debut for Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees in place of the injured Manu Tuilagi.