WOOTTON Bassett have been rocked by the departure of head coach Neil McCarthy just days into the new rugby season.

The former England hooker has stepped down after just one game of the Southern Counties South campaign to take on a new "challenge".

The 32-year-old, pictured, had transformed Bassett from relegation fodder to promotion chasers since arriving in 2005 but the timing of his decision to quit came as a surprise, with Bassett cruising to a 55-10 opening day win over Dorchester.

"When I arrived I said it would only be for two years," McCarthy told the Swindon Advertiser.

"My job was to try and progress the club and progress the internal coaching.

"It's at the stage now where it's easy for them to find those coaches. It's a case of job done from my point of view and let's move on to the next challenge."

McCarthy has yet to confirm what that challenge is, although it is believed a return to the pro ranks is on the cards for the former Bath, Gloucester and Bristol front row man.

Bassett's development coach Mark David will take over from McCarthy at Stoneover Lane, with Tim McGrady his assistant, starting with Saturday's trip to Devizes.

Club skipper Dave Floyd said: "Neil leaving was a little bit out of the blue but we were lucky to have him for as long as we did really.

"It's unfortunate but he's done wonders for the club during his time here.

"He was just a lot more professional in his approach to coaching and that was something the young lads coming through embraced really quickly.

"We've recruited from within with Mark David and Tim McGrady stepping up from the development team, so hopefully we can continue in the same vein.

"There was never going to be a good time for it to happen but the lads have taken the news very positively."