Wood: All Blacks can be beaten
December 1, 2012
Tom Wood insists the All Blacks are fallible © Getty Images
England flanker Tom Wood refuses to buy into the perception that world champions New Zealand will be invincible at Twickenham.
Wood holds All Black rugby in the highest esteem. The season he spent playing for North Otago in 2006 was a key part of his rugby education. New Zealand are on a 20-game unbeaten run and they have not lost an autumn international in a decade, since they were downed by England at Twickenham in November 2002.
Streetwise and ruthless, the All Blacks appear to be playing rugby on a different plain to the rest of the world. But Wood is convinced England can overturn the odds against New Zealand and avenge the frustrating defeats to Australia and South Africa.
"They are human, they are beatable," Wood said. "They are a very good team but they are not the all-singing, all-dancing team they are made out to be at times.
"They thrive on loose ball and counter-attack. They get ahead, they force you to chase the game and then when you make mistakes they capitalise. If we let them creep ahead six, nine points then we are in real danger.
"The best way to combat that is to take our game to them. We raised our game in terms of physicality last week but we will have to go up again this week. It's about doing things on our terms, getting pressure on them and not allowing them the luxury of doing all the things they want to do.
"That's the same every week and it's no different because it's the All Blacks - it's just making sure you're not in awe of them, as it would be quite easy to be on the back of such a winning streak and the hype that always surrounds them.
"We are going to play without fear and when we get a chance to attack we have to be more clinical. We have to take every opportunity that comes our way. It will be a huge scalp to get and will really salvage what has a been a disappointing campaign in terms of results."
No-one is more determined to right those wrongs than England captain Chris Robshaw after his decisions at key points against both Australia and South Africa backfired.
"When you effectively sign up for the job you know days like this might come where pressure is put on you," he said. "You know there'll be some good days and some tough days.
"Over the last couple of weeks, myself and the other players have learned a lot about international rugby. We have learned the hard way and unfortunately that happens in sport."
Robshaw will lead from the front again, just as he did against the Springboks when no other England player made as many tackles, carries or hit as many rucks as the captain.
"As captain you will be put under pressure in these situations but first and foremost I need to go out and perform," he said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves because if you fall off your game for 10 minutes that will hurt us. They can damage you in 10 seconds."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
He teed up Obolensky's try, fought in Burma and played cricket for Warwickshire - we Rewind to look at the story of Peter Cranmer
With the World Cup just a year away, Tom Hamilton picks out five matches to ensure you have tickets for
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup