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    Wood backed to handle Six Nations fervour


    by ODN


    England debutant Tom Wood has been backed to rise to the occasion in Friday night's Six Nations showdown with Wales.

    Wood was not included in England's original 33-man squad but he has been promoted from the Saxons straight into the starting XV after injuries forced manager Martin Johnson to reshuffle their pack.

    England head to Cardiff with Johnson having steeled his young squad for the most hostile atmosphere they will experience anywhere in the championship.

    But Johnson had no qualms in throwing flanker Wood in at the deep end - and Northampton boss Jim Mallinder expects the man he recruited from Worcester last summer to thrive.

    "It's a tough place to go and play on a Friday night, is Cardiff, but knowing Tom and the type of player he is, it won't be a problem for him. I expect him to do very well," Mallinder said.

    Wood, who stands 6ft 5in tall, first linked up with England in the autumn and impressed Johnson immediately with his attitude and work ethic.

    "When young guys come in they sometimes don't know how good a player they are. We certainly rate him," Johnson said.

    "He has impressed everyone with what he has done on the training field just by his demeanour and his manner.

    "He just seemed to say: 'I am not here to make the numbers up, I am here to have a crack'."

    Wood will pack down at blindside flanker and offer England a back-row lineout option in the absence of Tom Croft with James Haskell pressed into action on the openside.

    "He's not an out-and-out six but at the same time he isn't an out and out seven. He brings the qualities of both. He is also an excellent jumper in the lineout," Mallinder added.

    "He's a determined lad, he came from Worcester and he wanted to improve both his club playing ambitions and his international career.

    "He's done that and to start for England is a massive honour."