Wood: Sky's the limit for England
February 12, 2013
Tom Wood has impressed since returning to the England line-up © Getty Images
Tom Wood insists the sky is the limit for Grand Slam-chasing England after their landmark 12-6 victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
England had not won a Six Nations game in Dublin since 2003, when Sir Clive Woodward's team clinched the Grand Slam before going on to win the Rugby World Cup. Stuart Lancaster's young England team will not allow themselves to even contemplate emulating those giants of 2003, not with a wounded French side due at Twickenham on February 23.
But the manner in which England's young team passed their biggest test of character since Lancaster took charge has given Wood the confidence that anything is possible.
"I don't think there's any limits to what we can achieve," Wood said. "We have to keep focusing on the next job and stay very grounded. All our victories so far have been built on that intensity and hard work. They are not built on individual flair or individual talent they are built on togetherness and the culture that underpins that.
"The moment we forget that and get ahead of ourselves we are in trouble. It's our ferocity in the breakdown, our energy in defence, our willingness to work for each other that is making the difference and we need to keep remembering that."
Asked whether England can win the Grand Slam, Wood said: "I like to think so. If we get things right, we're going to be a very difficult side to beat because we are hard to break down. France will be hurting after recent weeks, Wales are finding some form and will be tough at the Millennium Stadium and Italy are showing what they are capable of, so we'll keep our feet firmly on the ground."
Owen Farrell kicked all of the points as England displayed a composure and control which belied their lack of experience at the highest level. England captain Chris Robshaw felt his side had "put down a marker" with their victory, which was by man measures the best achievement under Lancaster.
The victory over New Zealand in December was stunning but it was a one-off performance from a team which had nothing to lose. Now they shoulder expectations and each week they rise to them. England added new levels to their attacking game to beat Scotland 38-18. Under incessant rain in Dublin they battled for their victory.
"I think it was a pretty big achievement to come up against such an experienced team in challenging conditions and get the win," Wood said. "We measure ourselves in terms of consistency and the biggest thing for us is that we didn't just get up for one game against the All Blacks.
"We managed to back it up against Scotland and we came away to a really tough environment and did the same again. We won with a lot of flair and scored some tries against New Zealand and we have come away here and ground out a hard-fought win against a really aggressive, powerful side. "We're winning in different ways. That is the way we are evolving now."
England's mantra heading to Dublin was 'no backwards step'. In 2011, Martin Johnson's team had failed to match Ireland's intensity and saw their hopes of a Grand Slam destroyed. But Lancaster is building a young side of bristling intensity.
England's pack take no prisoners and the back division is stacked with ferocious competitors, the likes of Brad Barritt, Mike Brown and Farrell. For the second week running, Brown was listed by the Rugby Football Union's own measurements to be England's most influential player.
His contribution during the 10 minutes when James Haskell was sin-binned was match-winning, given he had a direct hand in winning the two penalties which took the score from 6-6 to 12-6. Brown and Alex Goode were untroubled by Ronan O'Gara's aerial bombardment and their assured performances at the back allowed England to take control in the final quarter.
Andy Farrell described England's performance during that period as "a masterclass". Lancaster said: "I'm not surprised by their character. What I'm most pleased with is their composure and technical discipline.
"We'd been rocked a bit, lost a couple of scrums and lost a man to the bin but we managed that period so well and came out on top. Mike Brown had another outstanding game. People have questioned his ability to play international football and on the wing. For me, he's been one of our stand-out players.
"Alex Goode stepped up his performance from last week to deal with that aerial threat that Ireland were always going to pose. His understanding and innate ability to position himself to where a fly-half is going to kick is excellent."
The England squad will meet up at St George's Park, Burton for a training camp on Tuesday. Among them will be Gloucester duo Freddie Burns and Ben Morgan and London Irish's Alex Corbisiero, who are continuing rehabilitation after injury.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery