Wood benefits from training pain
Tom Wood drew "sadistic" pleasure from the suffering endured throughout England's World Cup training camp and hopes to feel the benefit when he faces France on Saturday.
Wood will captain the Red Rose for the third time when Les Bleus visit Twickenham in the first of three warm-up internationals leading into the sport's global showpiece on home soil.
A phoney war has been waged throughout the summer with rival teams declaring themselves the fittest they have ever been, among them England who have spoken widely of a tortuous fortnight at altitude in Colorado and gruelling sessions at the squad's Surrey headquarters.
Now that conditioning has given way to playing as World Cup preparations escalate, Wood insists the rewards of a hellish summer will be felt.
"We would get to the point where you are almost delirious. It almost stops hurting because you just can't see how physically it can get any worse. You almost go on to auto-pilot," Wood said.
"One thing I'd tell myself is 'just one foot in front of another'. It doesn't matter, just keep running. Do not drop out at all costs, that's the one thing you can't afford to do.
"It's absolute torture and is kind of sadistic - you just enjoy it because you know you have left no stone unturned and that you can enjoy feeling the benefits of it.
"The theory behind it is that you suffer together and go right to your breaking point. You see people digging in and just holding in there.
"When you come out the other side you can look each other in the eye and know how tough it was and that you have been through it together.
"We tend to do two really hard days on and by the end of Tuesday you are physically empty. I'm good for nothing. I go home and it's a waste of time. I can hardly speak.
"But you get your rest and recovery, you get down the pool, you do your stretching and get your food and your supplements and you come back in Thursday morning ready to go again.
"Hopefully the fitness work we have done will be evident at the weekend."
Wood's competitive streak saw him seek out back-row colleagues Calum Clarke, who makes his Test debut against France on Saturday, and James Haskell during the most arduous sessions.
The muscular Haskell prides himself on his conditioning, posts YouTube videos such as 'James Haskell Hell Workout' and has his own training channel named 'Bodyfire TV'.
Wood and Haskell are locked in a duel for England's number six jersey and the Northampton flanker knows that beneath the comical persona is a conscientious professional who works hard on his shortcomings.
"I try not to watch his YouTube videos if I can help it! He does make himself into a bit of a clown figure at times, doing it on the videos, but when he's behind the scenes he loves working," Wood said.
"He's meticulous in his preparation and is a realist as well. He's self-aware - for all the videos and things like that, he knows what his strengths and weaknesses are.
"He jokes about it all the time. His work-on is not the bench-press, his work-on is catching and passing - he says that himself. He works on his weaknesses as well as his strengths."
England's last appearance was also against France, emerging 55-35 winners in a roller-coaster climax to the RBS 6 Nations in March that many hailed as one of the tournament's greatest matches. Wood expects a different game on Saturday, however.
"It's one thing being fit and playing a Harlem Globetrotters, end-to-end game, but we need to work on controlling the ball and playing the right tempo at the right time," he said.
"We'll try to keep our powder dry as far as strike moves and fancy plays go. It will be about getting into the intensity of Test rugby, playing quickly and challenging them."