Lawrence Wooldridge got his first taste of rugby for Leicester Tigers in the JP morgan sevens at Stockport recently after crossing over from Athletics and 400 m running. Lawrence Okoye went in the opposite direction to compete for team GB in the discus throw. So at In At The Side we have decided to come up with our top five stories of players NOT coming via the conventional academy route to the top of the professional game in recent years.
Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues and Wales). The former Hartpury College and UWIC player was first spotted by Wales sevens coach Paul John whilst playing for UWIC and Cardiff RFC. He subsequently played for the Wales sevens side from 2009-2011 which earned him a contract with the Cardiff Blues where in his first season he was also capped by Wales and has since caught the attention of the world.
David Strettle (Saracens and England). Strettle started his career at Lymm high school and Lymm RFC before he moved to Sheffield Hallam University where he played for Rotherham Titans whilst studying until 2006 where he was given a break with Harlequins. Like Cuthbert he made his international debut after his first season of first class rugby.
Ben Morgan (Gloucester and England). Morgan’ s story is quite exceptional. He started his senior rugby career at Cinderford and played for Gloucestershire u 20’s. He then moved to Welsh premiership club Merthyr whilst also working as a trainee plumber. Strong performances with Merthyr earned him a professional contract with the Llanelli scarlets where he had to trim down two-and-a-half-stones from 20st 12lbs to 18st 8lbs. He was then in the middle of a tug-of-war between Wales and England for his services but eventually chose England and made his debut in the six nations this year.
Charlie Davies (London Wasps). Davies started his senior rugby career at Nottingham RFC whilst in his first year at Nottingham Trent University. Another remarkable story in the rugby playing world, Davies was offered a contract with French giants Stade Francais having made just five appearances for the championship club. After starting out in the espoirs (u23’s) at stade, a series of injuries lead to a handful of first team appearances for the Parisian club which saw him gain a call up to the England u 20’s squad for the 2010 junior world championships in Argentina. He is now going into his third season at London Wasps.
Cadeyrn Neville (Melbourne Rebels). Neville could quite easily have been rowing for his country in London over the next couple of weeks; instead, he will be hoping to get his first wallaby cap in the new rugby championship. Neville only turned his hand to rugby three years ago starting at Manly with a stint in the Brumbies academy before being offered a rookie contract with the Rebels. Some strong performances in the super 15 for the rebels saw him gain a call up to the Wallabies squad for the summer internationals, but that allusive first cap still awaits him.
images: daily mail and fox sport