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Ward lands face-saving Ampthill deal

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'This is one of the worst years I can remember in terms of guys struggling to find clubs'

Ex-Harlequins hooker Dave Ward has expressed his relief at coming out the other side of an unsettling few months with his short-term future secure in the game.  

Despite having a deal at Harlequins that would have taken him through to summer 2020, the 34-year-old decided to knock that option on the head and instead take up an offer at Yorkshire Carnegie that would not only continue his playing career but also give him his first steps on the coaching ladder.

However, that plan ran into trouble when a financial crisis enveloped the Championship club and his deal was shelved, leaving Ward with nothing but an anxious wait on the horizon.

Salvation eventually arrived by way of Ampthill, the little-known, newly-promoted club from National One who have arrived into the second tier of the English game with designs on hanging around for quite some time. 

Ward, the former England Saxon who toured New Zealand with Stuart Lancaster’s senior side in 2014, is thrilled to have a one-year shot as player-coach at the Bedfordshire outfit, declaring in the club’s media release about his signing: “After talking to Mark Lavery and head coach Paul Turner, it was a no-brainer to sign for Ampthill. 

“I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to further develop my coaching career and I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping Ampthill in the Championship.”

Turner, the former Wales talisman who coached at Gloucester, Harlequins, Dragons and Wasps before starting his Ampthill adventure in 2012 way down the English pyramid, added: “Dave is a great addition to our squad and coaching team. He brings huge experience and capability in areas where we were a little light in the past couple of campaigns.”

Ward had opened up to the weekend Rugby Paper about his anxious wait to secure a deal following his let-down by Yorkshire. “I signed for Yorkshire last year, the main reason being to work with Chris Stirling again, who I’d played under at Cornish Pirates,” he explained. 

“Unfortunately, I found out around February time that the finances weren’t where they thought they would be. It was going to be a good two-year deal at what seemed to be an ambitious club, with a view to having a go at reaching the Premiership in year two. 

“With the infrastructure and academy they had it’s a plan that could have worked, but clubs rely on benefactors and if one pulls out it can create a domino effect and that is what happened at Yorkshire. It has been unsettling for a lot of people. 

“By February most clubs have got their recruitment sorted and this is one of the worst years I can remember in terms of guys struggling to find clubs. There are guys from Harlequins who are quality players who still don’t have contracts. 

“It’s the end of June and it’s unbelievable some of them can’t find clubs, but I just had to remain calm, especially as I was a little different to other guys that I wanted something with a coaching aspect to it as well, with an eye on my future career options. 

“There wasn’t really the opportunity to stay in the Premiership, certainly nothing that would have given me a coaching role, but luckily Ampthill showed some interest… they have achieved good things coming up through the leagues and are an honest club.”

WATCH: Going Pro, the RugbyPass documentary on the Premiership-winning Saracens women’s team 

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'This is one of the worst years I can remember in terms of guys struggling to find clubs'