Tom Wood says England must obliterate Irish pack in World Cup warm-up
PA Sport
September 5, 2015

Tom Wood insists England's pack have resolved to "obliterate" rather than overcomplicate against Ireland in the last of their World Cup warm-up matches at Twickenham on Saturday.

His side were bullied by France up front in Paris two weeks ago and were also below-par against their Six Nations rivals seven days earlier, drawing criticism for attempting too many passes out of the tackle instead of making hard yards.

England will need their pack to be firing once again if they are to challenge for the World Cup and Wood insists they will take a more primal approach after being given a timely reminder that a forward's role should be simplified.

"Normally it takes a kick up the backside before you go back to the basics. You can talk about all the technical stuff in the world, but it is a mentality," the Northampton flanker said.

"If you are physical and abrasive, it normally takes care of itself. As soon as you start over thinking, take your foot off the gas and hesitate, then teams can make life difficult for you.

Tom Wood
Tom Wood© Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

"We have challenged ourselves to evolve and to do more around the field, to be more athletic, to handle the ball, to defend in wider spaces.

"But foremost, your bread and butter as a forward is to win set-piece ball and obliterate breakdowns. Sometimes you need reminding of that.

"You spend all week working on little fancy plays and passes and sometimes you need to remember that 'bend over and push is your main job mate, get back to that'.

"That's what we've said this week -- back to basics to a degree, get that right and then start thinking about the other stuff."

The set-piece has been a perennial source of English strength but it struggled alarmingly throughout the dire 25-20 defeat in Paris and was only marginally better in the 19-14 victory over France at Twickenham.

The line-out is in the most urgent need of repair and forwards coach Graham Rowntree has been drilling the pack in search of improvement, while calling specialist Geoff Parling has been restored to the second row to add his expertise.

"We're very confident. Our pack has set a solid platform for sure for the past three or four years. It's been our salvation when things haven't gone to plan elsewhere," Wood said.

"It's been something where we're imposed ourselves on the best teams in the world and got really good change out of it. We certainly admit we're not the finished article.

"And playing against a very big, physical, athletic French pack you would see there are areas to work on.

"But overall we're confident that we haven't become a bad pack overnight. We'll try to get back to winning ways and sort things out."

England have sunk to sixth in the world rankings, below Pool A rivals Australia and Wales, when head coach Stuart Lancaster had declared his desire to be second by the start of the World Cup.

"It's not as flattering, is it?! I think we are better than that and that probably reflects the nature of some of the fixtures we've had," Wood said.

"We've deliberately played New Zealand away three times and we've played them five times in the last couple of years.

"It is disappointing, I'd like to think that we're better than sixth in the world, but the margins are pretty tight between three and six.

"It would have been nice to be number one, certainly top two or three, but I don't think the World Cup is going to be defined by that."

ESPN is proud to announce an exclusive 1-hour special - Cheika's Wallabies: Hope of a Nation - premiering on ESPN Weds Sept 9 at 9pm AEST (11pm NZ). ESPNscrum's leading rugby expert Greg Growden goes one-on-on with the Wallabies coach in this exclusive special that gives a rare insight into the intriguing personality of Australia's head coach.

© PA Sport

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