Retiring Saints legend Wood lifts the lid on the time he almost joined Leicester Tigers

Tom Wood has revealed that he came very close to joining Leicester Tigers before sealing a move to Saints in 2010.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 30th May 2022, 4:21 pm
Tom Wood scored the most memorable of tries against Leicester Tigers in May 2014
Tom Wood scored the most memorable of tries against Leicester Tigers in May 2014

Wood, who today announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, made the move to Northampton from Worcester Warriors 12 years ago.

He has gone on to become one of the most important figures in the recent history of the Saints, helping the club to claim glory in the European Challenge Cup, Premiership Rugby Cup and, most notably, the Premiership.

Wood scored the key try as 14-man Saints saw off Leicester in the play-off semi-finals on their way to their first, and so far only, Premiership title.

But it could all have been so different, as the 35-year-old explained in his farewell interview with this publication.

"I feel very lucky to have found Northampton as a home and I nearly went to Leicester at one stage," Wood said.

"I don't know if it's public knowledge but when I left Worcester, it was Leicester that were most aggressively after me initially.

"It's funny how things work out and I couldn't be more grateful that it was Northampton that I ended up coming to because it's a proper rugby town."

When asked to expand on the Leicester approach, Wood said: "I didn't actually think Northampton was an option because I looked at the way they were playing and their back row and how they were playing at the time, and I was like 'they're sorted, why would they want someone like me?'.

"They had Scott Gray, (Phil) Dowson, (Neil) Best, Roger Wilson - those guys were playing the house down. They had Courtney (Lawes) and the team was playing great.

"I remember playing against them for Worcester and they smashed us, but it looked like such an exciting team to play for, a good brand of rugby.

"I then saw the interviews after the game with the likes of Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Lee Dickson, Stephen Myler and Jim Mallinder - and they all had massive smiles on their faces.

"In stark contrast at Worcester, we were struggling, we were in a bit of a dark place, we were having a few crisis meetings, people weren't enjoying the day to day and we looked under pressure and stressed all the time.

"To look over the fence at Northampton, I saw they were enjoying themselves and it was a huge carrot to come and play for Northampton but I didn't think it was realistic.

"I wasn't looking to leave Worcester, it was Leicester who came and approached me and were quite aggressive early, but it didn't materialise.

"They had some comings and goings with other players, and in the end Leicester basically backed out.

"But it was Dusty Hare who had done all the due diligence and was the guy who was pushing for me to go to Leicester, and he actually moved here.

"It was (Richard) Cockerill and Simon Cohen at Leicester at the time, and I actually met them and had largely agreed I'd probably go to Leicester, but then they started messing around and virtually pulled the rug on me.

"So as a young lad, ambitious, it was actually quite a bit of turmoil because I didn't actually want to leave Worcester. They were my home club, they invested a lot of time in me, I played for the Academy, had Academy coaches I was close to and the idea of leaving…

"I'd loved to have stayed with Worcester at the time and taken them from the bottom of the league to the top and captained them and spearheaded that mission, the way Exeter did it.

"That was what I wanted at the time but the more conversations I had with them, the more I realised that wasn't going to happen in my timeframe.

"My ambition was to win leagues, play for England, be as good a player as I could be and be in an environment that pushes me and stretches me.

"Leicester came in really hard and they forced me to think about that earlier than I was ready to.

"I thought 'how can I turn this down?' because they were quite aggressive but it didn't materialise and then Dusty moved here, moved the paperwork over to here, spoke to Jim Mallinder and told him I was available and all the homework had been done.

"It was a ready-made deal and as soon as I came and shook hands with Westy (Dorian West) and Jim, and saw the environment and everything, it was a no-brainer really."