FORMER England scrum-half Martyn Wood has begun the mammoth task of building a squad from scratch in less than two months after starting work as Yorkshire Carnegie’s new director of rugby.
All of Carnegie’s first team players departed Headingley at the end of last season when the club ran into financial difficulties and Wood has 32 part-time players to find before the season kicks off on September 20th.
Wood, 42, has been in charge of Hull Ionians since 2017 and led the club to the National Two North title last season but felt he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to coach Carnegie on a full-time basis despite the club’s troubles.
“We’ve not got any players at the minute and I’m not in any shape to play fly-half,” joked the twice- capped Wood, whose gallows humour may come in handy given the size of the task ahead of him.
“At the of the day it is going to be a challenge, let’s make no bones about it, but it is one I am looking forward to. We’ve got to get some players from somewhere and I’ve already got some irons in fires.
“We are quite fortunate this year because the first game isn’t until September 20 and that’s in the Championship Cup, which we’ll be using as our pre-season games.”
Even though Carnegie are losing their academy licence it will remain in Leeds, run by the RFU out of Leeds Beckett University.
The best academy players such as Stuart Lancaster’s son, Dan, will no doubt find their way into Carnegie’s first team, while links with other clubs, such as Sale Sharks, are another obvious solution to Wood’s need for new recruits.
“I’m going to try and strengthen the relationship with the academy. I know it is separate now, however, I’ve worked with (academy) manager Ben Lazenby, who is a very good academy manager and I am sure we can work together.
“I’m not saying we’re going to take all the players, but the plan is to sit down and have a conversation and work out what’s best for that individual player. Ben will always do what’s right for the player which is why I respect him so much.”
Wood also hopes to pick up disaffected Premiership players and those looking for more game time. “I’m sure there are a lot of players out there who are in full-time environments who actually don’t enjoy it, whereas if they can pick up a bit of money playing part-time in the Championship it might not be a bad option for them, so I am exploring a few avenues such as that.”
As for Sale Sharks, Wood added: “It’s the closest Premiership club and I’ve known Steve Diamond for a long time and we’ll see how we get on with that one. But he’s not the only one I’ll be trying to get resources from.”
After having a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) approved, Carnegie received confirmation on Friday – subject to the club satisfying certain conditions – that they can remain in the Championship albeit with a 28-point penalty. That penalty will be applicable in the 2019/20 season unless all creditors agree to the terms of the CVA by 9 August.
How competitive Carnegie can be given the circumstances is a moot point but with talk of no relegation from the Championship at the end of the 2019/2020 season, the new-look squad may have a season to bed in.
“I don’t think I could have turned the opportunity down because I am comfortable with the expectation levels of the club,” says the new man in charge.
“If a young coach took it, who is a career coach it could have a long-term affect (if things didn’t work out). There’s been a few high-profile DoRs in the Premiership who’ve had one job and are now out of the game.
“But if I get sacked, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll do everything I can to do the best job possible and as a proud Yorkshireman, I want to see Yorkshire Carnegie thrive.
“I know there has been a lot of unrest, but I’d like to think we can put that behind us and turn a new page.”
JON NEWCOMBE / Photo: GL Photography
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