England players told to get fitter
August 27, 2014
Tom Wood makes ground against the All Blacks in the summer © Getty Images
Northampton flanker Tom Wood has said that the England squad has been told they have to get much fitter in the light of their series whitewash by New Zealand in the summer.
In an interview in the Daily Telegraph, Wood said that one of the issues is that the week-in, week-out club game no longer prepares players well enough for the rigours of the international game.
"International level is dramatically different to the club game," he said. "We have been shown data that illustrates that. There is about a 20-minute difference between international and club rugby, which is huge. The game against France at the start of last season's Six Nations had 46 minutes of ball-in-play time, the highest I have known. It is regularly up around that level against the All Blacks in particular. They are fast games with ball in play a lot.
"Even the Heineken Cup is not bridging the gap. That is a more static, power-based game, whereas international rugby jumps to a really fast tempo. Everyone wants to throw quick line-outs, nobody wants to wait around and have a talk [about strategy] that way we do in the Premiership, the way set-piece dominant teams do. Everybody wants to keep the ball moving. We have to recognise that and train for it."
Looking back at the defeats in the summer, Wood said the low was the opening 25 minutes of the third Test when England shipped four tries. "It was hard to take. I got worked up over some things. We can't be in that position again. We won't be that vulnerable again. We showed our deficiencies in some areas."
But he said he did not necessarily agree with criticisms of the players' fitness levels. "It is not so much about fitness as mental sharpness, about smelling blood and putting the throttle down. The All Blacks do that better than anyone else. When they have got you, they have really got you. It is a mental thing. It was not so much about fitness as mental fatigue at the end of a long season. It is harsh to call us unfit on the back of that."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd