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Lancaster hails fired up Wood

Stuart Lancaster is ready to reinstate Tom Wood to England's back row for Saturday's QBE International against Australia at Twickenham.

Wood was dropped for the first time in his Red Rose career when James Haskell was selected at blindside flanker for the 28-9 victory over Samoa, but he could be in line for an immediate return to the starting XV.

Haskell was quiet against the Pacific Islanders and Lancaster hinted that Wood's absence has had the desired effect.

"It often helps selection when you give someone an opportunity and then you have someone as competitive as Tom who never likes missing one minute of training, never mind one minute of international rugby," Lancaster said.

"There was definitely a reaction from Tom in training during the week and when he came on against Samoa, although he gave away a penalty, his contribution was good.

"A fired up and motivated Tom Wood is a pretty useful weapon to have in your armoury.

"We wanted to give James Haskell an opportunity on the back of his club form and we were always going to generate that chance for him.

"Tom's line-out option is one to consider for this weekend because of the pressure we feel we can put on the Australian set piece."

While England's midfield remains in a state of flux - George Ford is to continue at fly-half with Owen Farrell or Billy Twelvetrees starting at inside centre - the wings are finally beginning to take shape.

Jonny May followed up his stunning solo try against the All Blacks with two more at Samoa's expense, while 20-year-old Anthony Watson's slick footwork and vision lit up Twickenham and set up a touch down for Mike Brown.

"The big step forward for me in the last two to three weeks has been those wing slots. Jonny May has stepped up and Anthony has taken his opportunity really well," Lancaster said.

"Anthony has all the physical attributes - he's athletic, he's quick, he's got good footwork and he's good in the air. The main bits for me centred around self-belief and confidence.

"There was a tipping point in this series, a conversation I had with him. He had gone away and realised that he hadn't really put his mark on the camp.

"When we picked the squad, he was selected behind Semesa Rokoduguni. That rattled him because it was the first time in his career when he hadn't been picked. That was the tipping point.

"He came in and realised, "If I want to be in this team, I need to have some presence and my personality has to come out". And it has done. That's been the most pleasing bit."


From Belfast Telegraph