Northampton flanker Tom Wood ashamed and embarrassed after Leinster mauling
‘To have fans call you an embarrassment as you leave the field is about as bad as it gets’
Man-of-the-match Brian O’Driscoll during the game in Franklin’s Gardens. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Surely a backlash will follow. Or maybe Northampton will be unable to lift themselves after this 40-7 humiliation that equalled their worst ever defeat in Europe. At least the 50-17 defeat to Clermont in 2001 occurred at Stade Marcel Michelin.
Tom Wood, a flanker who has matched Richie McCaw in Test match rugby, came into the press room of a packed Franklin’s Gardens and spoke to us like we were best mates.
Wood looked on us with trust in his eyes as a dollop of honesty poured from his lips. “What can I say really? It was like an unopposed team run for them for most of that game. We never asserted any pressure at any stage really.
“Leinster are a quality side. They have a great track record in Europe but they aren’t 40 points better than us. They are not that much better than us.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with us. You think we would have learnt after last year’s (home defeat to Ulster). We got yet another lesson. We are going to have to front up and have a good look at ourselves and try and make a fist of it next week. Come to Dublin and give them a game, show the real Northampton because that was unrecognisable out there today.”
What did you say among yourselves? “We’ve been pretty honest in the changing room there. We talked about showing some character and making sure we look at ourselves pretty deeply and all that but, for me, it is beyond that.
“It should never get to that stage. We didn’t need that. We knew we were up against a quality outfit. We knew we were at home at Franklin’s Gardens in front of all our home fans. These are the occasions you live for when playing rugby.
“So to not turn up, it is one thing losing to a better side . . . but to go out there and lose having not played a hand is soul destroying.”
No need for anymore questions, Wood was away.
“I mean, that is probably the longest 80 minutes I’ve ever played. I’m ashamed to say it but I couldn’t wait for the final whistle. After half time you are trying to show character, you are trying to be brave and salvage something from a game that has clearly gone away from you. We didn’t even make mistakes on the front foot by taking chances.
“It’s not like we were flying out of the line and getting beaten by a side step or neat play, we just stood off them and absorbed pressure until they scored.
“We backed off until they walked over our line. That is just unforgivable at this level. It felt like they had twice as many players on the field. I didn’t know which hole to plug first. Which brick wall to run into next.”
There wasn’t even anger, just depression after being savaged by their own people.
‘Hair dryer treatment’
“You know, there is no hair dryer treatment because we are all pretty ashamed about what just happened. To have fans call you an embarrassment as you leave the field is about as bad as it gets.
“All we try to do is make the fans proud of what we do as a team and we can’t be proud of what we did out there today and we don’t expect them to be. We can only apologise for that.
“I’m ashamed, embarrassed because as a team collectively we didn’t play a hand.”
So, what can be done in Dublin? “Who knows? We would like to salvage some pride. It is not beyond us. As typically happens in these circumstances they may think they have this won and maybe some complacency will creep in after destroying us here at home.
“We can’t rely on that but we will go out there and regroup and hopefully put in a performance that, if not get the result, we can be proud of because it is a dire situation.”