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Tom Wood of Northampton Saints
Getty Images
Tom Wood of Northampton Saints
Getty Images
Rugby

Wood: This Saints team are ready to make next step

This summer will mark the end of an era for several reasons at Northampton Saints, not least with the retirement of back rower Tom Wood after 12 years’ service at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens. 

With Saints gunning for a place in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs, Wood is hopeful we have not seen the last of him on a rugby field, as he nears fitness after recovering from shoulder surgery in February. 

Should he make it on to the pitch again, the 35-year-old former Club captain would add to the 240 appearances he has made since signing from Worcester Warriors in the summer of 2010. 

Wood has battled back plenty of times before, not least the pulmonary embolism he had to recover from two years ago, but there have also been plenty of high points. 

Wood earned 50 England caps during his time at the Club, taking in two World Cups, while he also won the Premiership’s Player of the Season award for 2010/11, his first campaign with Saints. 

When asked for the memories that stand out most, it is not surprising that a couple of notable clashes with old rivals Leicester sprang to mind, with one providing a major step towards the 2013/14 Premiership title. 

Wood said: “This is the first time in my whole career that I’ve had time to sit down and reflect, and the idea of retiring has kind of forced me to look back – me and a few of the lads have been telling a few stories and thinking back on it. 

“I vividly remember my debut here for Northampton, coming here and playing against Leicester in an East Midlands derby on the opening day. 

“Sun was out, immaculate pitch and I actually got man of the match, whether I deserved it or not because Soane Tonga’uiha and Chris Ashton, and others, were on fire that day as well. 

“Obviously, the semi-final [in 2014] and more than that semi-final, that whole month of rugby, really, because we won the semi-final in an East Midlands derby.

“Having been sort of nearly men, being undone in semi-finals through the years, we went on to win the European Challenge Cup against Bath in Cardiff, then there was obviously the Premiership final against Sarries that went to 100 minutes. 

“If I look back now, that’s the month that really stands out as the peak of my personal and the team’s journey that we’d been on.”

Tom Wood

As Wood alluded to, the Saints team of that era had to go through more than its fair share of disappointments before finally finding success. 

While Chris Boyd’s time as Director of Rugby, which also comes to an end this summer, has largely been one of progress, there have been frustrating setbacks along the way as well. 

But there is still the chance of him bowing out in the grand manner, as a Saints win against Newcastle Falcons this Saturday would see them finish in the Premiership’s top four. 

Wood said: “It’s been a frustrating season or two, where we know we’ve got, to use Boydy’s phrase, the cattle in the shed. 

“We know we’ve got the talent and the potential here and it’s just starting to get to the stage now where I think they’ve matured enough. They’re beginning to take the reins themselves. 

“For a while, they were full of potential young lads, but they’re established now – they’re on the cusp of international honours, a lot of them. 

“They’re ready to make that next step and hopefully they stay here at Northampton long into the future and forge their own path.”

Tom Wood

“I’ve kind of been thinking for a little while it’s not my team now, it’s their team. It’s Lewis Ludlam, it’s Alex Mitchell, the likes of George Furbank, James Grayson, Tommy Freeman, Rory Hutchinson, it’s for them to take on now.” 

Wood admits to being something of a rugby addict in his younger days, watching a game whenever he’d get the chance, but he has developed plenty of hobbies since. 

Long a practical man, it is the most significant of those hobbies – carpentry – that is set to be Wood’s next source of income once he does hang up the boots. 

He will keep himself busy with a combination of joinery and tree surgery, but that does not mean the Gardens or the supporters will have seen the last of one of Saints’ legendary figures of recent years. 

“I’m obviously going to stay local,” Wood said. “My boy is at Northampton School for Boys, and I’m coaching there. He also plays at Bugbrooke for the under-13s, so I’m into the coaching there. 

“I have spoken to both Phil Dowson and Mark Darbon here, as I’d love to stay involved with the Club in some way. 

“I don’t particularly want to be a full-time coach and I’m not ambitious to be a director of rugby or forwards coach, or anything like that. 

“But I do feel like I could offer something, whether that’s commercially, whether it’s more of a mentoring or consultancy role on the rugby side of things, whether it’s hosting on game days in the various boxes. 

“There must be something in terms of where the Club can make use of me, since I’m only going to be down the road. 

“We haven’t put any meat on the bones there and it’s a loose conversation at the moment, but hopefully there is some shape or form I’ll still be linked to the Club and still be here.”

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