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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Wood eager for action
Keith Wood in action during the Ireland rugby team's pre_World Cup training
Keith Wood has recovered from shoulder and neck problems

Ireland skipper Keith Wood is desperate to make up for lost time as he prepares to lead his side into World Cup action.

The Lions hooker has revealed his place in the squad hinged on him making the summer tour to the southern hemisphere.

And although he did not play against Australia, Tonga and Samoa, he was able to maintain contact with the squad, ensuring he was up to speed with game plans.

It helped the 31-year-old ease back into the international arena in the World Cup warm-up win over Wales, Italy and Scotland.

This has been a long time coming and I just want to get stuck in
Keith Wood
Wood made a quicker than expected return for the preparation games after recovering from shoulder and neck problems which ruled him out for virtually an entire year.

Coach Eddie O'Sullivan had no hesitation in reinstalling him as captain, and Wood will become only the third Irishman to play in three World Cups when he leads his team out against Romania in Gosford on Saturday.

"Without doubt, the most important part of the last 12 months for me was going on the summer tour," said Wood.

"If I had not done that, I would not be in Australia now.

"Even though I did not play, I was able to come to the group sessions and grasp the tactical changes that were taking place and now I cannot wait to get started.

"There is a certain nervousness there because of the time I spent out injured but this moment has been a long time coming and I just want to get stuck in."

Wood wholeheartedly accepts the challenge of leading a vastly-improved Irish side now ranked number three in the world.

That lofty status might be scoffed at by Pool A rivals Australia, who emerged 45-16 victors from the teams' most recent meeting in Perth.

But it means there is intense pressure on Ireland to finish in the top two of a group which also includes fellow tournament dark horses Argentina.

It was the Pumas who sent Wood and his team-mates tumbling out of the last tournament four years ago when they won a pulsating quarter-final play-off in Lens.

However, their Limerick-born skipper is confident an early exit can be avoided this time given the added quality and improved preparation Ireland are now benefiting from.





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Irish skipper Keith Wood
"I always believed my injuries would clear up in time"



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