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Wood demands more from England

Tom Wood has demanded England earn regular victories over New Zealand to demonstrate his belief they are narrowing the gap on the world champions.

The All Blacks enter Saturday's QBE International intent on avenging last year's record 38-21 defeat, their only loss in 33 matches at Twickenham dating back to August 2011.

Victories over Australia and Argentina have put England on the brink of a triumphant clean sweep this autumn and despite some alarming flaws in their performances, they have developed a winning habit.

World champions New Zealand offer the ultimate benchmark of progress and Wood insists scalping the All Blacks must become a regular occurrence.

"We want to get to the position where we don't declare national holidays every time we beat them. We want it to be a regular occurrence," the Northampton flanker said.

"We want it to be a level playing field. We want to be considered their equals or better than them. We want it to be that when anyone comes to Twickenham, they are underdogs, not us.

"You have got to hand it to the All Blacks - they are still the benchmark in world rugby. They have got threats all over the park and strength in depth, but we are getting there.

"I'm not going to make wild statements about us being better than the All Blacks. We have still got a point to prove. We have still got to back it up week in, week out.

"But I definitely think we are going in the right direction and developing something with a bit more substance and sustainability."

Facing New Zealand is a test of mental strength much as physical, but England succeeded in mystifying the world's outstanding team in their own minds last December.

It was one of the great moments in the nation's rugby history, produced on the back of a fearless mindset that pierced the aura of invincibility that shrouds the All Blacks.

"There is a psychological aspect to playing New Zealand because everyone puts them on a pedestal," Wood said.

"A lot of teams are beaten before they go into the game because they expect the All Blacks to win. Everyone does. That is what we got right last year and what we have got to re-create this year.

"You could argue that they were complacent last year or at the end of a long season. There will be none of that this year.

"They will be looking to right some wrongs. This will be the game that matters."

Wood, who started last December's rout at blindside flanker, enjoyed a spell at North Otago in 2006.

"I don't claim to be some sort of expert on New Zealand rugby but having lived there and played against some of those characters, it does demystify them," he said.

"It brings them down to earth in your mind and makes you see them as only human. That was a phrase I used last year.

"We were not going to get caught up in the whole aura of the All Blacks. We are going to treat them like anybody else.

"Yes, we are going to have to be at our best because they are a very god side. But that is all they are.

"But the All Blacks coming to Twickenham, we are under no illusions what they means. We are going to have to be absolutely full-on."


From Belfast Telegraph