Tom Wood has debt to pay to his Kiwi mentors
Tom Wood, once known as "Tom the Pom", is hoping to repay his former mentors by whacking the All Blacks tonight.
Wood has often relayed the tale about how his season with North Otago in 2006, where he joined the Valley club and represented the province 10 times, helped shape his rugby career.
Yet he's not sick of regurgitating the quirky yarn of how he shifted Down Under to play footy, earned the nickname "Tom the Pom", played for one of New Zealand's tiniest provinces and went on to represent England.
"I wanted something that was going to separate me from the herd back in England, do something different," Wood, 27, recollected.
It was an unconventional move but he never regretted it. Since his test debut in 2010 he has made 28 appearances for England.
"I had been involved in their academy process over there. You can become somewhat of a robot in that system because you are just like everyone else and I wanted to do something that separated me from everyone else."
For tonight's test in Dunedin the Northampton blindside flanker, not considered for the first test because of the scheduling of the English club final, has been preferred ahead of former Highlander James Haskell.
This isn't Wood's first journey to Dunedin.
He was a member of the England 2011 World Cup squad, which never seemed to recover from the public fallout following a boisterous night out in Queenstown, but says the gulf between that outfit and the current one is vast. "In terms of the cohesion of the group, the understanding of the plan and identity of the group and where we're going, it's not even comparable."
And if England roll the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium, he hopes his old associates in North Otago can still take some pleasure from the result.
"I thank them for all their efforts - I was incredibly well looked after on and off the field. I would like to think they have a vested interest in me and I would love to make them proud out here."