Nearly a quarter of the Premiership season has elapsed, and Gloucester Rugby find themselves in the bottom four in the table. It has been a stuttering start domestically, but not something unusual in recent seasons, as supporters know only too well.
At the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Gloucester put together a sequence of five wins and a draw in the Premiership. In the three years that have followed – 64 games to be precise – the team have not won more than two Premiership matches consecutively, and if they do manage to win the next two, that will be three full seasons worth of fixtures. It’s not an enviable statistic.
Prop Nick Wood was involved in that 2012-13 run, but so far this season he’s been kept out of the team by Paddy McAllister and Yann Thomas. His only competitive action has been in the friendly against the Barbarians and an “A” League game at Leicester.
He captained Gloucester in both games but it’s hardly what he would want to be doing in his 13th season at the club, and given hs loyalty to Gloucester he’d certainly want to force his way onto the teamsheet before the two Challenge Cup matches against Worcester, where Dean Ryan is now Director of Rugby. The connection doesn’t stop there either, as Karl Hogg and Mefin Davies – both formerly on the Kingsholm payroll – are in Ryan’s backroom staff.
“Dean gave me my first opportunity at Gloucester, so I know how hard he works and how hard he makes his players work” said Wood. “I learned a lot from having Mefin alongside me in my younger days. He was a fantastic scrummager and probably the best mentor I have had as a player within the squad. I’ve had coaching mentors as my career has progressed but as a player, at that time, Mefin was certainly the biggest influence.”
“I’ve always been self critical since my early days when the coaches were harsh on us” Wood went on. “As time goes by you self analyse a lot because you get to know what the coaches want and they put the finishing touches around it. The one thing you understand at my age (32) is that there is an element of load management in what you do and that recovery is vital, otherwise you don’t get the best out of yourself and the team doesn’t benefit either.”
For the moment Wood has had to play a waiting game, but with McAllister being replaced after only 20 minutes at Northampton last Friday, a change of thinking may come into play for the visit of Sale on Friday night. A man with over 250 games behind him and a point to prove about his own future – Wood is out of contract next summer – might just be to Gloucester’s advantage.
Photograph : Copyright http://www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk