Harrogate rugby club’s preparations for their first season at Rudding Lane have been rocked following the exit of head coach Kerry Wood.
Wood has left the Cockerels’ coaching set-up after accepting a new post with Leeds Beckett University rugby team.
However, director of rugby Mike Aspinall has been quick to replace him with the arrival of former Leeds Tykes hooker Rob Rawlinson.
Rawlinson represented Leeds for more than 10 years and was part of the squad that won the Powergen Cup.
He has since been head of rugby at Queen Ethelburga’s School.
Aspinall insisted there had been no fall-out with Wood following a year in which Harrogate collected the Yorkshire Cup and came fourth in National Two North.
On Wood’s departure, Aspinall said: “There were no plans to change. Woody was a big part in what was a great year for the club,” Aspinall said.
“It’s obviously a big disappointment but it’s the mentality of the club to move on next year
“I don’t like to think of it as a loss. We are better for the experience f having Woody with us but things need to continue to evolve.
“We need to put together a back room staff that we believe will be better than last year, and with Rob’s arrival, we are hopeful that will be the case.”
Director of rugby Aspinall signed Wood as a player/coach 12 months ago after the New Zealand-born flanker left National Two North rivals Hull.
He will remain registered at Rudding Lane, but Aspinall was unsure of his availability – urging fellow flankers Noel Minikin and Nathan Smith to step up to fill the void.
The experienced forward made 25 appearances in a Gate shirt last season, scoring six tries.
Aspinall credited much of Gate’s success to Wood’s influence on the dressing room and admitted his disappointment at seeing the cult figure depart.
Aspinall added: “He will say he bought into the culture I was bringing to the club but he embodied that culture every week in his time at Harrogate.
“I was standing up and saying it, but I always felt he walked that talk every time he stepped onto the grass.
“He led in his own way and he was a great role model for the ways we wanted the players to act.
“For me to have Kerry working with us with that mentality was a very powerful tool.”
Meanwhile, Harrogate have brought in Dave Hamlin and Matt O’Sullivan as second and third team coaches.