Craig Nutt insists he did not lead a mass player exodus from Abu Dhabi Saracens and that his move to cross city rivals Harlequins is a decision he took to benefit himself.
The powerful Welsh prop’s departure from Al Ghazal after three seasons was announced by Sarries chairman Jay Danielson last week, the Australian upset that a number of team-mates seemed to use it also as an opportunity to leave.
But Nutt, who featured in 16 games in his debut 2014/15 season in the Emirates while also travelling home each week to fulfill a promise to play for home-town team Bargoed, feels the time was right to make the move.
“It’s about a change. I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into Saracens the last three years and for me it’s the right time for a change,” said Nutt, who also stepped up to lead the team along with Stephen Hamilton in a player-coach role in 2015/16 after head coach Ali Thompson stepped down following West Asia Championship success.
“I wasn’t enjoying my rugby and I have to get back to that.”
Fellow prop Murray Reason, centres Sean Stevens and Garth van Niekirk and fly-half/full-back Matt Hutchings are also reported to be heading to Quins.
But Nutt feels it’s ridiculous to suggest he would trigger a flurry of departures, especially when getting into a side that won every trophy on offer last season will be a monumental task.
“They’ve just come off winning five trophies. I’m not expecting to walk straight into their team,” added the 32-year-old.
“At the end of the day you have to have confidence in yourself to push yourself to get into that squad. I’m not guaranteed to start by any stretch of the imagination. If I have to play in the second team for the first few weeks then so be it.
“I have confidence in my ability to know I can push to get into the first team. It’s fine to start off at the bottom, it’s not an issue. I don’t mind putting graft in as long as I’m enjoying myself, and I wasn’t. When you get to that stage it’s difficult.
“It’s all well and good to say you can do training on your own but I play team sport to be among people. I’m not motivated enough to be in a gym on my own, I need like-minded people around me.
“Having to push yourself to get into the team is what I need, not turning up on the weekend. That is why I moved. I needed more people in training. I’m used to only have two weeks off before pre-season. Here it’s four months then four weeks of pre-season before playing.”
Nutt passes the three-year threshold to be eligible for residency next season and he admits making the UAE squad for next May’s Asia Rugby Championship was also at the forefront of his thinking.
He said: “No-one’s got a right to play for the UAE. I want to be in the best possible position to push to get into the UAE squad. That’s my overall goal.
“I want to be training until the start of the season and want to be back in the condition I was in when I arrived. Looking at the structures in place at Quins, that’s the best possible place for me to be.”
Quins were back in pre-season this week, holding an welcome back session at Zayed Sports City on Sunday, and Nutt said his first impressions were impressive.
“It was very good, professional. Close to what I’m used to in Wales. The Quins set-up, I’ve been very impressed with. I’ve had emails for the last two weeks.”
Nutt’s departure from Sarries has left a bitter taste at Al Ghazal. But after initial uproar, Nutt revealed tempers cooled after a phone call from chairman Danielson.
“I spoke to Jay. I sat Jay down four months ago and told him I was leaving. So he rung me and apologised. For him to ring up and apologise was a big thing,” he said.
“I moved for different reasons. I moved to benefit myself, not anyone else. It wasn’t like I was leading an exodus. I’ve been involved with running that club for the last three years. They were a big part of who I’ve been here for three years.
“I wish them all the best, but it was time for me to move on. I didn’t want it to finish on bad terms. Abu Dhabi’s far too small to be on bad terms, we all drink and eat in same places.”
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