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Keith Wood

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He started his career with Garryowen who he helped to All Ireland ***les in 1992 and 1994 before moving to Harlequins. He played 58 times for Ireland and five times for the Lions. Renowned for playing with his heart on his sleeve, Wood always put his body on the line with trademark charging runs at the defence, or bullish tackles. Never the most accurate player in the set piece his real strength was in leadership and open play where he dominated most world XV's hooker spot.

Fifteen test match tries, including an amazing four in one game against the USA in 1999, bear testimony to his qualities and he was also the heart and soul of successive Ireland and British Isles teams for the best part of a decade.

He holds the record as the most capped Irish hooker and the longest-serving captain and also played in three World Cup tournaments. With the Lions in South Africa in 1997 and again in Australia in 2001 he was a talisman, one of Martin Johnson’s unofficial lieutenants who, to his captain’s undoubted approval, was always first to take the battle to the opposition.

He was the first winner of the IRB World Player of the Year award in 2001.

Along with the stock information gleaned from the various sites that sing his praises (Hall of fame site), i would have to say that Keith Wood inspired a nation to shrug off the "nearly men" attitude that we had for so long in this country. A valiant loss was no longer good enough in the eyes of this captain, and his passion on the field earned him his talismanic status. On giving his final interview after the french game, the cracking voice and tears in his eyes showed how much playing the game, and playing for his country meant to him.
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