Talented young hooker Charlie Clare is looking to get his career back on track at the Bedford Blues after a shoulder injury stalled his fledgling career, writes Mark Wood.
His shoulder dislocation and subsequent muscle and cartilage repair sidelined him for 14 months while at Leicester Tigers, and while being rated as one of the best young front row forwards to come through their Academy he was let go at the end of the season.
He said: “I had a serious injury so I haven’t been able to keep up my progress so I’m looking to really kick on at Bedford. It’s always good if people say nice things about you.
“Everyone was very nice about it but not being able to get any games in it was an obvious decision to let me go, but I’m hoping to bounce back at Bedford now.”
The 21-year-old had been in Leicester’s youth set-up for five years and admitted being injured for so long had been tough to take.
“No-one likes to be injured but it’s all good now,” he said.
“It’s just so hard watching people play when you can’t really do anything about it.
“You can just sit in the rehab room and no-one really looks in there. It’s very frustrating and you just want to make the most it when you get back fit.”
On how the move to Bedford came about, he said: “I’ve just known it’s a really good club and my contract has finished at Leicester.
“Bedford asked if I wanted to join and after I looked around I saw how good the facilities there are and how many good players have been through their system and it was a bit of a no-brainer really.”
There is one familiar face at Goldington Road for Clare in the form of fellow Leicester graduate and Norfolk boy Tom Armes.
He said: “We are quite pally. Knowing that one person can help you out and they will tell you the people to be nice to – that can help!
“I’m just looking forward to meeting all the lads and having a pre-season ahead of next season.”
Clare returned to action in December and is now fully fit with the number two jersey up for grabs following Neil Cochrane’s summer move to London Wasps.
He is likely to face competition from dual-registered Saracens starlet Scott Spurling who ended the season strongly for Bedford and who has been away with England U20s at the Junior World Cup.
Clare continued: “Joining a club that plays exciting rugby and Neil Cochrane doing so well and coming in and potentially having to fill his shoes will be a tricky task.
“It’s going to be a good challenge I’m ready to take on. I’ve just got to keep my head down and get on with things and fight for that first team spot like everyone would joining a new club.
“It’s always good to have a colleague to challenge you and that is a similar age.
“You are always against each other with that close competition and you’ve really got to up your game. I’ve seen Scott play several times and he looks like a very exciting young player.”
Clare believes his strengths lie at the set-piece, but he is just looking forward to getting back playing again.
“I pride myself on my set-piece a bit, whether I’m good at it is for the fans to decide.
“I do pride myself around the set-piece and get around the pitch as much as I can. I’m quite heavy and using my size to my advantage should help.
“At first I just want to be able to cement a place in the Bedford team and anything that comes after that will be taken as it comes.
“First of all I’ve got to get a good pre-season and settle in with all the players.
“Getting that game time and getting back playing after such a long lay-off.”
Bedford excelled themselves last season by coming runners-up in the Championship play-offs and Clare’s aiming high for the club, the pack and himself.
He added: “Especially with the results Bedford were grinding out last season, finishing second in the Championship is outstanding.
“You can’t be doing that if you haven’t got a good forward pack.
“I just want to do as well as I can and settle in as quickly as I can. If anything comes from that I will take it.
“I think it’s the same (aim) for every Championship club to finish as high as you can to see if we can get promoted and get the option that if we want to (go up) we can choose to.”