Why Martyn Wood is the right man to lead Harrogate RUFC to better things

Former England scrum-half Martyn Wood's 'competence and experience' were the key factors behind Harrogate RUFC's decision to appoint him as their new director of rugby.

By Rhys Howell
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 7:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 7:33 pm
Martyn Wood is the new man in charge at Harrogate RUFC.
Martyn Wood is the new man in charge at Harrogate RUFC.

The 45-year-old has been named as Dave Doherty's successor at Rudding Lane following the latter's decision to step down after six years in charge of the Aces.

Ex-Bath and London Wasps man Wood inherits a squad that finished 2021/22 bottom of National Two North, but knows exactly what it takes to succeed in English rugby's fourth-tier having won the division with Hull Ionians as recently as 2019.

"We had a number of applicants for the position but our decision to appoint Martyn really came down to his level of competence and experience," explained 'Gate chairman Iain Salkeld.

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Martyn Wood scoring a try for England against Canada back in 2001. Picture: Getty Images

"Obviously he played the game at the highest level and he knows this level of rugby very well having had success while in charge of Hull Ionians.

"Another of the key things with Martyn is the fact that he's already involved here, he's part of the club because he's got a youngster playing in the junior section and so he already has a feel for Harrogate RUFC.

"He's a Harrogate lad and just feels like a really good fit for us."

Injury-ravaged Harrogate rounded-off a campaign to forget on Saturday when they suffered their 27th defeat in 30 matches, going down 66-10 at high-flying Sedgley Park.

Martyn Wood, centre, pictured with England team-mate Josh Lewsey, left, and Joe Worsley in 2001. Picture: Getty Images

A Rugby Football Union restructuring of the leagues means that no team will be relegated from National Two North for 2022/23 and Salkeld is hopeful that Wood can oversee an upturn in fortunes next term.

"With his contacts, we know that Martyn will be able to make a difference in terms of our recruitment as well as our retention," he added.

"In terms of our ambition for next season, it's not like we are looking to mount a promotion push. After a really tough year, we'd love mid-table obscurity to be perfectly honest.

"This season has been quite depressing and hopefully we don't find ourselves in this kind of position next year.

Dave Doherty is leaving Harrogate RUFC after six seasons at Rudding Lane. Picture: Caught Light Photography

"We think that Martyn is the right man to help move us forwards and take us to where we want to be."

Wood started his rugby journey with hometown team Harrogate but spent most of his playing career at Wasps, before joining Bath where he went on to play in the 2004 Premiership final.

He earned his two England caps against Canada and the USA in 2001 having toured South Africa the previous year but had to retire from the game at the age of just 29 in 2006 as a result of a neck injury.

Having taken over at Hull Ionians in 2017, he was appointed Yorkshire Carnegie's director of rugby in 2019, only to be relieved of his duties after the then-crisis club began the season with 13 consecutive losses.

In addition to announcing Wood's appointment, Harrogate have also confirmed that Sam Fox is staying on as head coach, while Aled Jones has been handed the role of head of rugby transition.

"Sam remaining as our head coach will really help in terms of continuity," Salked said.

"He knows the players very well and is tremendously well-respected, which hopefully will be significant in terms of retention for next season.

"But, most importantly, he is an extremely talented young coach."

Fox cut his teeth under the outgoing Doherty, who leaves Rudding Lane 12 months after leading the club back to National Two following a four-year absence.

And Salkeld had only positive things to say about the ex-Wasps and Sale Sharks winger's tenure.

"Doc was a genuinely good bloke, so honest and hard-working, so it's a shame that he's moving on," he continued.

"From a personal perspective, he was very supportive to me as chairman in terms of everything rugby-related.

"Under Doc we made massive strides forwards with our junior section and academy. What he helped put in place created a genuine pathway for our young players and colts to progress into senior rugby.

"That proved to be a huge blessing this season. It kept us going really, it meant that we had enough players to field a team when we had so many 1st XV regulars out injured.

"We're grateful for all of his work and everything he contributed during his time at the club."