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'Like anyone it hit him like a bit of a train'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adam Davy/AFP via Getty Images)

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Incoming Newcastle boss Dave Walder is hoping the Falcons will soon complete negotiations to being Mark Wilson on board his coaching ticket for the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership season. It was February 14 when it was confirmed that the 32-year-old England back-rower would be retiring from playing with immediate effect just two weeks after making his long-awaited comeback off the Falcons bench.  

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In the end, a troublesome knee injury did for the Newcastle stalwart who won 23 England caps and played in the 2019 World Cup final off the bench. At the time of the retirement announcement, director of rugby Dean Richards told RugbyPass: “I hate talking about people being retired, it’s as though you have written him off in his life. It sounds f***in’ terrible,” he said.

“His knee had been grumbling for quite some time and we sat down after one of the games recently and he said that he went to go on the pitch, had warmed up on the bike and just struggled, his knee locked out on the pitch and he was limping around. It [Retirement] didn’t come as a surprise at all, to be honest with you. He has had a lot of problems with it over the last few years.”

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Although he currently had his No6 Coffee House in Ryton, Wilson’s future plans were unknown when he retired but when news broke the other week that head coach Walder would succeed Richards when he steps away as director of rugby at the end of the season, it was mentioned in the Newcastle media release that “Mark Wilson is also expected to become a member of the coaching team”.

According to Walder, that potential tie-up that would Newcastle bring Wilson back into the fold has yet to be fully signed off on. “No, there are all sorts of bits and pieces going on in terms of trying to clarify roles and responsibilities,” said the soon-to-be Falcons boss when asked by RugbyPass for an update on the situation with their recently retired star forward.

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“Mark has been pretty clear he wants to get into coaching. He is a club legend from a playing point of view and there are a few bits and pieces I guess, dot the Is and cross the Ts before we know exactly where we are at on that. In all honesty, I have only had a couple of coffees with him. It came as a bit of a shock with his knee. 

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“He hadn’t played as much as he wanted to going into the start of the season, he wasn’t in as great a shape as he hoped he would be. He’s a phenomenal professional, a phenomenal athlete and it sort of caught up with him. Like anyone it hit him like a bit of a train, he took a bit of time away and started training for duathlons and physically he is in good shape. 

“His knee is still giving him struggles but he has realised that in the life of a coach you can stand around, you don’t have to run around. But mentally he is in a good place and looking forward to hopefully getting back involved and helping the club move forward.

“He has done little bits and pieces (of coaching) at a couple of local clubs and he has certainly been very proactive in speaking to coaches in different sports and different teams and trying to get ideas from them and find out exactly the ins and outs of how they do things. 

“We talked about our job as a coaching group is to get the balance and blend right and it is in everyone’s interest to make sure we are all doing what we are good at and just trying to find out exactly what that is might take a little bit of time. Once we know what it is we can all use our strengths to help the group move forward.”

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