Wood desperate for one final shot at glory with Saints

"I'd love to retire out there on the pitch and the ideal scenario was to get myself fit and sneak into the matchday squad for the final, go and score the winner, kiss the baby and sail off into the sunset."

By Tom Vickers
Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 7:00 am
Tom Wood
Tom Wood

That is the dream of Tom Wood after he announced his imminent retirement from rugby on Monday afternoon.

The 35-year-old, who has spent the past 12 years at Saints, is currently sidelined by a shoulder injury sustained in a derby-day defeat at Leicester Tigers back in February.

But he would dearly love to take to the field one more time before he calls time on his career this summer.

So how realistic is it that he could play any further part in the season?

Saints play their final game of the regular season at home to Newcastle Falcons on Saturday, knowing a win would take them into the Gallagher Premiership play-off semi-finals a week later.

And when asked whether there is any chance he could get one more game for the club that has become his home, Wood said: "I'm not ruling it out and I'm going to give it everything I can to contribute in whatever way I can, even if that means getting on the training pitch with the boys and doing a full week of training in the bibs, training the team.

"I'd love to retire out there on the pitch and the ideal scenario was to get myself fit and sneak into the matchday squad for the final, go and score the winner, kiss the baby and sail off into the sunset. But how realistic that is at the moment, I don't really know.

"The shoulder's not there yet and I can't afford any setbacks now - the time's running out.

"It might also depend on how the lads go because if we stall, which I hope we don't, this week then we're done and the chances of me playing are gone.

"If we get to a semi-final and final, they might just do enough to keep me in the fold, but either way I can't complain."

The decision to retire was made by Wood last week when it became clear Saints could not give him the contract he wanted.

He explained: "In some ways it's a bit late in the day with it being the last week of the regular season.

"I finalised it last week and with being injured and fact that I always intended to stay local, I had no ambition to play for anyone else.

"I had a very honest conversation with Chris Boyd earlier and Dows (Phil Dowson) later in the season and said realistically I wasn't interested in taking a big pay cut.

"For me to say on another year, they needed to get closer to where I am now but I had no ambition if someone like Worcester or Ealing or Wasps came in to join another club.

"I wasn't chasing a club and I said to Saints that if they didn't want me, I'd retire.

"I had the same conversation last year and basically said if Saints don't want me or can't afford it, I'm going to retire.

"There doesn't have to be urgency from Saints because they don't have to worry about me signing for Wasps or anyone.

"It dragged on a bit because it gave them the chance to get their ducks in a row and see where the cards fall at the end of the day.

"I'd made my peace and I'm ready to retire - I might have retired anyway, but the scenario didn't quite marry up with salary caps and budgets and what it would take for me to go another year and put my body through what I put my body through.

"It's a risk reward thing and it's never been about money but you need to be compensated if you're going to break your shoulder, break your toe and train all day.

"It just didn't work for myself and the club, but there's no hard feelings, no bad blood and it's probably the right time.

"I feel I can get out now with my body relatively intact and my enthusiasm intact and move on to the next stage of my life with the same enthusiasm and passion.

"There's a lot of life left to live after rugby and I feel in a good place to go and attack that."

So has it sunk in that this summer will bring the end of Wood's hugely successful rugby career?

He said: "I don't know if it's sunk in.

"It's been on my mind for the best part of two years and I retired last year, shook hands and walked away.

"I was told a couple of times in the past couple of years that it's probably not going to happen.

"The conversation has gone back and forth a few times and I said I was at peace with it and there's no hard feelings.

"I have already been in that position where I'm walking away and preparing for the future.

"Away from rugby I've been getting my ducks in a row for retirement and I've also psychologically been making my peace with it for a long time.

"Having said that, it's only been official for less than a week and the announcement made it feel real.

"You can't help but feel sentimental and saddened that this stage of your life is over, coming to terms with it is a challenge, but I'm in as good a place as I can possibly be.

"I've had long enough to plan emotionally and financially so I can move off in a positive fashion.

"My body is still good enough to play for another year and I still feel I can compete with our current back rowers and still be out there performing so it's not that.

"But I'd rather be sat at home next year and thinking I could still do it than be sat here feeling like guys are overtaking me, my body isn't up to it anymore, I'm getting left behind or, even worse, I don't actually want to be here anymore and I'm tired and bored and drained.

"The last thing I ever wanted was for rugby to become a job and a chore and the more you go on, the more you roll the dice because injuries accumulate.

"I can get out knowing I'm still at the highest level and this season I played as good a rugby as I've ever played.

"I was part of some good wins this season, my metres and my numbers were all good.

"I can leave with my head held high that I didn't deteriorate and I wasn't punch drunk and outstayed my welcome.

"It's an important thing."