Coventry winger Henry Purdy’s four-month spell in New Zealand rekindled his enthusiasm for rugby after a hoped-for new contract at Gloucester fell through.
Purdy, a double England U20s World Cup winner in 2013 and 2014, spent five seasons at Kingsholm before being released in May after a season blighted by injury and concussion.
With his career at a crossroads, Purdy signed for Championship side Coventry, but only joined them last month after completing a successful Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Otago.
Purdy, 25, told The Rugby Paper: “I was hoping to stay at Gloucester. Communications had been positive and I managed to get back towards the end of last season and was happy with how I played, but things were tight with the salary cap and it didn’t materialise.
“It was late in the season and by then a lot of teams had done their recruitment, but it gave me the opportunity to go to New Zealand which was a great life experience. Otago needed some outside backs and were keen to get me down, so it enabled me to get out of the bubble of English rugby because that last 12 months at Gloucester had been a rollercoaster.
“With injuries and concussions and then thinking I’d be re-signed and then not, it was quite a frustrating time. To say I lost the love for the game would be a bit strong, but I was in a bit of a rut where I hadn’t done a lot of playing or enjoying myself very much.”
Purdy added: “Going to New Zealand enabled me to find my enjoyment for the game again and focus on that. I knew the performance side would come from that and it allowed me to get some game time, so I jumped at the opportunity and it was a cracking four months.
“There was a good mixture of Maoris, Pacific islanders and Kiwis and the team culture and coaching at Otago was awesome. They welcomed me seamlessly and it was cool to be part of, so I’ve come back fully refreshed and ready to do my bit for Coventry.”
Purdy opted to drop down a level and signed for Coventry a couple of days before he left for New Zealand at the behest of Nick Walshe, his former Gloucester and England U20s coach who is now rugby director Rowland Winter’s right-hand man at Butts Arena.
After making a try-scoring debut against Ampthill last week, Purdy explained: “Nick got in touch with me once he’d heard I was leaving Gloucester and, while there was other interest, I knew Walshey well and it was great to know I had something to come back to.
“They’ve recruited well and I knew other boys who’d come from Gloucester like David Halaifonua, Gareth Denman and Darren Dawidiuk. Everything they said was positive; there’s a lot of ambition here and I’ve been impressed with the infrastructure on and off the field.
“I’d love to get back to the top level. Hopefully I can play some good footy at Coventry, enjoy it and then you’re in the shop window for the Premiership. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, but I’m fully committed to making this club successful as well.”
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