Having entered a CVA over the summer, with players, coaches and staff departing en masse following the club’s financial meltdown, the erstwhile Heineken Cup competitors are starting from scratch in 2019-20.
Indeed, Carnegie’s entire 23-man squad for tonight’s Championship Cup opener at Nottingham are debutants. It includes the odd big name like former England winger Tom Varndell and ex-Leeds Rhinos star Lee Smith but, more so, a raft of Academy talent including fly-half Dan Lancaster – son of former England coach Stuart – loan recruits and even a triallist in former Northumbria University hooker Louis Musetti.
Wood, the former Harrogate scrum-half who won two Premiership titles with Wasps and also represented England, only arrived at the end of July after leaving Hull Ionians.
He has faced a sizeable challenge with new player-coach Joe Ford to simply assemble a squad in time for kick-off.
The 42-year-old said: “It’s definitely been tough. Very tough. Since the CVA, there’s been a lot of stuff that has been written about us – which I understand – but at the same time I was brought in to try and push the club forward and to build a team.
“Joe Ford has been excellent as head coach as has Steve Salvin while Chris Gibson has been a massive help in terms of getting the contracts signed and making sure we’re all on the same page.
“The staff have stuck together brilliantly through the whole process. Ultimately, what’s impressed me most about the squad is the boys have actually signed up to contracts knowing it will be a tough challenge.
“The application of those boys in training has been really impressive. We are all aware it will be difficult but they’ve put their name on a piece of paper and said: ‘I’m up for that fight.’
“One thing we’re trying to instil into them is having a bit of fight in the old dog.
“It’s a mindset thing more than anything else; just because we’re not there on a weekday nine til five does not mean to say the boys aren’t professional in their attitude and approach.”
Carnegie only train two nights per week whereas most Championship clubs – their league fixtures kick off at home to Bedford Blues on October 13 – are full-time.
But Wood insists they can still make things work and said: “We’re trying to be the best we can be on a part-time basis.
“Okay, we haven’t got the boys for weights and fitness but that’s all taken care of with two excellent S&C guys coming in.
“When the lads are away from the club we make sure someone is in contact all of the time in terms of weight programmes.
“When they are at the club on a Tuesday and Thursday we start at 6.30 with a meeting, do a bit of video work upstairs and then we’re out on the field.
“We’ve had about three weeks pre-season. It doesn’t seem like a long time. It’s not. But if you get picked for a representative team you generally have to get together within a week anyway so it’s no different to that.
“The boys have gelled great. We’re organised. We’re prepared for this game.”