England may have exited this Rugby World Cup at the group stages but Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood is convinced they have the mental strength to quickly bounce back.
An impressive Australia defeated England at Twickenham on Saturday evening – triumphing 33-13 to knock the Red Rose out of their home World Cup.
Wallaby fly-half Bernard Foley ran proceedings – crossing for two tries and booting a further 18 points from the tee – to condemn England to third spot in Pool A, ensuring they are the first host nation in history to exit the tournament at the group stage.
They still have one match to play against Uruguay next Saturday but that game in Manchester will now be a dead rubber.
England faced enormous expectation heading into the tournament and there were plenty of distractions as hosts but Wood, who was part of the Northampton side that finished top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table last term, insists that wasn’t necessarily a factor.
“For us as players, we have to try and separate ourselves from all of what goes on outside our circle and focus on the detail that goes into preparing for a rugby match,” he said.
“We have the belief in each other and the togetherness, so that is an easy fix because we’re not an easily-distracted team and we get on with it.
“We’ve got some strong characters that will be hurting like hell but ultimately will get their heads back straight and if we had a game next week and the week after, we’d give it our all over and over again.
“In terms of credibility, earning the trust and support of everybody again, that might take some time.
“There was a lot of expectation and hype going into this tournament but we’ve fallen flat on our face – let’s not beat around the bush, we haven’t got what we wanted out of it.”
A slow start at Rugby HQ meant England trailed 17-3 at half-time and a Foley penalty shortly after the break made it 20-3.
Bath Rugby’s Anthony Watson powered over the whitewash before an Owen Farrell penalty narrowed the deficit to seven points with 15 minutes remaining but Saracens man Farrell’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle sealed the hosts’ fate with the boot of Foley and Matt Giteau’s try at the death twisting the knife.
And despite being caught cold in the early going, Wood claims there was still hope in the dressing room at half-time before the heartbreak of the second half.
“There were a few different messages at half-time – although the scoreboard was dead against us we felt the run of play wasn’t necessarily,” added the 28-year-old.
“It was still in the balance and if we could get the next score and get back in the game then we were right back in it and the game wasn’t over.
“But the underlying message was that if we didn’t pull something out then we would be preparing for Uruguay next week with very little meaning.
“All the work we’d done not only for the last three months but for the last three-and-a-half years would be for nothing – that was the message at half-time.
“That was the motivation to come out, do something slightly different and get back in it. We did it to some extent but ultimately with the yellow card and some things not coming off, we were defeated.”