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Thursday, 4 June 2015

University rugby clubs: The path to professional rugby?

Whilst university rugby players don’t always have the best reputations, playing in college games can lead to being talented spotted. This isn't surprising given the wealth of training support and specialised programmes which university clubs offer those who are good enough to be selected. As some of the best rugby players in history got their break on the university team, perhaps this is a good way to transfer from amateur to professional rugby.

A good way to get noticed

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Whilst most players will maintain a lifelong interest in the sport after playing at university, checking Coral for the latest fixtures that they can perhaps place a bet (or two) on, a lucky few will use their time with the University club to gain exposure. Professional rugby conditioning Coach Ben Wilson offers invaluable advice for those wanting to become a professional rugby player. Amateur clubs, for Wilson, are brilliant places to get noticed once you are over 20 years old as they offer the opportunity for players to “excel at the lower levels and then be invited to train with the professional teams and thus go on to win a contract”. Of course, Wilson is quick to point out that this will require dedication to the game through a rigorous training and fitness programme but if you are good enough university clubs are a perfect spot to be scouted.

Will Greenwood’s history with Durham University Rugby Club

Will Greenwood, Charlie Hodgson and Will Carling (among others) have all played with Durham University’s rugby club; unsurprisingly, the standard of players picked is very high but once selected the club offers access to “some of Britain’s finest and most experienced coaches” as well as weekly specialist clinics for players. In an interview, Will remembered his days with the club at Durham with fondness saying “We had a small group of players who really made the most out of ourselves. We never had any floodlights, so we used to pull all the cars up to the touchline and turn the headlights on to train.”

Joe Ansbro shone under the varsity match spotlight

After making his debut with the Cambridge University rugby senior team against an Australian University’s team back in 2005, Ansbro found himself well on the way to his professional rugby career with the likes of London Irish and Northampton Saints. For Ansbro, it isn’t just the talent and potential to succeed which is important for success but also the ability to play under pressure, and the varsity match can provide an excellent initial introduction to the sensation of participating in a big match for the players, speaking back in 2013 Ansbro stated that players should “never underestimate the Varsity Match.” And whilst an unfortunate injury caused a premature retirement from the game, Ansbro still remains involved and interested in rugby.

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