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Wood is facing up to a life without rugby
HAVING everything you’ve strived for and dreamed of achieving cruelly snatched away from you at only 24 years of age must be an immensely difficult reality to contend with.
That is the situation former Worcester Warriors player Rob Wood finds himself in after being forced to retire from the professional game due to a chronic knee injury.
When Wood was picked in Mike Ruddock’s Warriors side to take part in the 2009 Middlesex Sevens, the second row-cum-flanker felt he was on the verge of a burgeoning career in top-flight rugby.
Even then, he knew his knee wasn’t right, but the excitement of being handed his opportunity to impress over-ruled any lingering concerns about his fitness.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, though, and looking back Wood admits: “I never should have played in the Middlesex Sevens — I couldn’t run or sprint.
“But because I’d been picked and wanted to be involved I tried to have some time off in the week before, but after that my knee completely broke down and I was unable to play.
“I had the year off rugby for my last year at university and missed all the games at Worcester, knowing I would be coming full-time with Warriors and trying to be fit for that.
“Since then, I haven’t played at all and have been through every kind of treatment, from extended periods of rest, through active rehab and having six different injections in each knee before we opted for surgery.
“I knew I couldn’t play because it got to the stage that it wasn’t just rugby it was affecting, but my life — getting in and out of the car, up out of a chair and bending my leg was painful.
“I had surgery in March last year and that wasn’t successful and we were still in the same position despite a year’s rehab and this March I went to Sweden for more surgery, which was less invasive and meant to be a quicker turn-around so I could try to be fit for the season.
“Although my day-to-day pain is improved, I am still unable to run. If I step away from the pressure of trying to play, then I’m hopeful the pain will get better. If I can get pain-free, then maybe sport may come after.”
There have inevitably been many difficult moments for Wood, the younger brother of England and former Warriors back-rower Tom, as he battled to save his career.
He recalled: “The toughest was when it first caused me to start missing rugby and seeing my friends playing — at that point it was never on my radar that I might have to quit the game. I had high hopes and big goals at Worcester.
“I lived with other players — at uni and here — and you’d see them training all the time and they’d want to know when I was back, but I just couldn’t put a date on it — that was really hard to come to terms with.”
Despite his troubles, Wood impressed the coaching set-up to earn a contract for this season, but that has been terminated by mutual consent.
He said: “I’ve been full-time at Worcester for two years just doing rehab with the physios Mike Lancaster and Karl Denvir — we’ve done everything. The physios have ended up being my best friends!
“The club couldn’t have done any more. I am devastated at not being able to play, but I can step away in an alright frame of mind because I know we did everything we could.”