Legend takes his leave

For 30 years Ted Wood has been synonymous with Durham University rugby.

For 30 years Ted Wood has been synonymous with Durham University rugby. During that time a stream of talented players, such as Will Carling, Phil de Glanville, Will Greenwood and Charlie Hodgson, passed through the portals of the Racecourse Ground.

Wood's decision to step down at the age of 71 represents the end of an era.

So many owe him a huge debt. Greenwood described his contribution as "immeasurable" while Falcons England fly-half David Walder said: "He's a legend. He's given me and the professionals the chance to make it."

Born in Barnsley, Wood was educated at Queen Elizabeth School, Wakefield, a rugby school where he got his first taste of the game that was to be his life.

He played for the Army, Barnsley (at the age of 14), Wakefield, Sheffield and Blackheath, and taught at Tunbridge Wells.

He said: "It didn't really fit a boy from Barnsley, I was not really equipped to teach in Tunbridge Wells, it was something of a culture clash."

It was while at Tunbridge Wells that Wood played for Blackheath, at the time the biggest club in the country. But he was eventually attracted to Durham and appointed Academic Bursar at Hatfield College in 1974 with a role in the School of Education.

Wood fondly describes Hatfield as "a very, very special college." In the 1974 UAU final, 14 of the Durham University team that played Loughborough were from Hatfield and the 15th from St Hild and St Bede.

Durham won the UAU (now the BUSA) title in 1965 and 1969, played in the final in 1973 and 1974 and then, after a 12 years of near misses, won four titles in five years.

It was a time when county and international selectors haunted the Racecourse Ground .

"People comment on the fact that I have never been paid," said Wood. "Well, you can't measure everything by money. I'm a lot richer than most people for that. There are people coaching in clubs who hate it, but it is their livelihoods, and that must be a terrible scenario."

Although player development has always been his credo, Wood has had his successes with Durham, with the North of England when they beat Australia at Otley and with the North in the Divisional Championship, England Students and Durham County.

"Rugby was strong long before I came to Durham," he added. "Players get tired of the same guy doing the same things and I'm delighted to see Howie Nicholson and Phil Harvey in charge now - they know what they are doing."

It would be nice to say that Wood leaves Durham in rude health. But he does feel rugby at the university is under threat because of the lack of facilities and funding.

Wood believes the biggest problem is the increase in student numbers and the massive expansion in those wishing to play university and college rugby.

"The spectacular growth has made Durham University the biggest community club in the country, but sadly, there has been little growth in the provision of playing and training facilities."

He is disappointed that over 900 players must train on the same pitch.

Hopefully, the appointment of Nicholson as the new director of rugby will improve matters but as Wood points out: "This has to be a university responsibility and is one of urgency."

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