GIVEN recent events, Yorkshire Carnegie’s new head coach Steve Boden admitted he was preparing to go for a run last night “just to clear my mind” after some surprise developments at Headingley.
The club announced yesterday morning that James Lowes had left “by mutual agreement with immediate effect” and ex-Doncaster Knights hooker Boden, forwards coach for the previous two seasons, would step up to replace him.
Carnegie had appointed New Zealander Chris Stirling as director of rugby – a role they had not employed since Andy Key was sacked in 2011 – at the end of March and he had headed up an in-depth appraisal of the whole rugby operation before making recommendations to the club.
It was presumed Lowes would be a part of that given he and Boden had only signed new deals for 2018-19 as recently as March 15 but that was around a week before former Hurricanes high performance manager Stirling flew into the country.
Former Bradford Bulls and Great Britain hooker Lowes was in his second spell as Carnegie coach, having re-joined the club two years ago as assistant to Bryan Redpath before becoming chief again last summer.
He won plenty of plaudits for their style of rugby in his first campaign of 2013-14 before heading back to league to take on the Bradford role. Last term – for differing reasons given they were hamstrung by a slashed playing budget – the 47-year-old also did a decent job to get them into sixth in the Championship.
Stirling, who has worked with the All Blacks, arrived with the remit to eventually get them back into the Premiership but also help build a sustainable outfit from the bottom upwards.
Leeds-born Boden said: “It’s been a mad few days and certainly full on for the last 24 hours. It did all take me a little bit by surprise. I’m really close with Jimmy and away from the club I socialise with him a bit too.
“We get on really well. He wants to get back into rugby league, though, and, to start with, I respect him as a person.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time working with him and can’t speak highly enough about him. I’ve learned a lot off him and we’ll meet up later for a few beers.”
I’m really close with Jimmy and away from the club I socialise with him a bit too. We get on really well. He wants to get back into rugby league, though, and, to start with, I respect him as a person.Carnegie head coach, Steve Boden
Stirling is expected to take up some of the coaching duties following Lowes’s exit.
Ilkley coach Nathan Smith has already been “shadowing” at the club over the last year and Boden says Carnegie’s Academy has some “great” coaches that will also offer help.
Boden added: “We had a good chat with the players this morning and Chris delivered some stuff as well. He’s come in late with his appointment but we won’t rush into decisions when it comes to recruitment; we have a real good nucleus of core players here and managed to blood a lot of younger players last season.
“I’ve been really impressed by what Chris has brought so far and I’m enjoying working with him; he’s good at feedback not just making players better but coaches, too.”
In a statement, Lowes said he had two very “enjoyable” years since returning and will “always keep an interest in the team”.
Stirling, who will lead the “rugby-side of the business”, thanked him for his “commitment and dedication to the club.”
Lowes will continue to work on an informal basis two days per week helping Leeds Rhinos .
However, although spotted with good friend Steve McNamara, the Catalans Dragons head coach, last Thursday, the ex-England assistant is not expected to join the French club.