Some people always have the ability to look on the bright side of life, and Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood admits he is using the current hiatus from rugby to practise for his own retirement.
The 33-year-old back-row forward has no intention of hanging up his boots in the short term, and is taking advantage of giving his body a break while the Gallagher Premiership is postponed due to the worldwide Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Wood is in his tenth year at Franklin’s Gardens and midway through a Testimonial season, but while he still feels as strong on the pitch as ever, he knows the sun will one day set on his glittering professional career.
“No-one really knows how they are going to deal with it until you retire, so I’m using this as a dummy run and making sure that I have some structure in my day.”Tom Wood
And with many athletes struggling mentally with the prospect of building a new life for themselves away from sport as they transition into retirement, Wood knew the current situation presented a unique opportunity for him.
“I’ll be honest, because I’m in the twilight of my career now, I’m using this break as a mock retirement,” he said.
“All those challenges that come when you retire – not having the changing room, not having the banter, not having the boys around you or the structure of a daily routine – I’m practising separating myself from that emotionally and physically.
“No-one really knows how they are going to deal with those things until you retire, so I’m using this as a dummy run and making sure that I have some structure in my day.
“We’re still limited in what we can go and do, but in terms of being apart from the rest of the team and making sure I’m productive, I’m practising those things a little bit.”
Wood has been one of the stars of the Classic Matches the Club has been streaming in lieu of live rugby in recent weekends, as we recap Saints’ run to a Premiership and European double back in 2014.
And one thing the flanker admits he cannot recreate as he trains in the back garden is the unique roar of the Franklin’s Gardens crowd.
“I’m actually getting the Mrs and the kids to give me a big cheer every time I bring a new chopping board out of my workshop!” he joked.
“Obviously, the adrenaline you get from playing in front of a partisan crowd is something you can’t replace, and what that looks like post-rugby – I have no idea.
“I’d love to have a role here even after my playing days are done, but I intend to stay local when I retire so I’ll always have a connection to the Club, even if it’s just as a fan.”
With his spare time usually spent toiling alone in his workshop, Wood insists self-isolation has come ‘pretty naturally’ to him – with Saints’ strength and conditioning team sending over daily bodyweight circuits to complete at home, alongside getting out once a day with his family for a run or cycle.
But the 50-time England international knows how important it is to get back to playing rugby as soon as is safe to do so for players, supporters and the Club alike.
He said: “All the players’ bodies have really appreciated a week or two out of the trenches, but now I think everyone is itching to get back out there.
“The public will be hearing about salary reductions, about the Club operating with reduced staff for the time being and being under some real financial pressure if this goes on too long.
“So we’re eager to get back out there. Everyone realises how much they miss rugby, and sport in general now that it’s been taken away.
“Training and doing press-ups in the back garden are one thing, but it’s got to be for a purpose, and we want to be getting out onto the pitch at Franklin’s Gardens as a team and performing.”