7 outstanding rugby players who made the grade late
In an age where academies rule, their likes are becoming rarer and rarer. As clubs become more and more adept at scouting talent from a young age, stories like theirs are becoming less and less common.
Here are seven stars who the academies missed and who took alternative routes to the top.
1. BEN MORGAN
The 6ft 3in, 18st 4lb Gloucester star is known for his powerful and muscular ball carrying which puts his team on the front foot.
Morgan’s path to pro rugby has definitely been an unusual one. After starting out with Gloucestershire club Dursley, he crossed the Severn bridge in search of a pro contract after going under the radar of the academies there. Spells with Merthyr and Cardiff Blues U20s followed during which he continued to work as a part-time builder, getting up at 4.30am everyday.
In 2009 he was picked up by the Scarlets, who were impressed by his raw potential but concerned by his nearly 21-stone frame. They immediately set about whipping him into shape and a punishing fitness regime saw Morgan drag sleds around Parc y Scarlets and wear weight vests on the running machine, whilst breathing through a snorkel.
He also ditched his builder’s diet: six croissants, a bar of chocolate supplemented with half a pint of milk for breakfast. The demanding fitness regime and new diet had the desired effect, as Morgan lost two and a half stone and shone at regional level for the Scarlets. After a number of months, he eventually quit the building trade and became a full-time pro.
His outstanding form led to Warren Gatland trying to entice him to play for Wales once he qualified on residency grounds but the proud West country man opted for his native England. And since making his debut against Scotland in 2012, he has gone on to pick up 31 caps including two appearances at last’s year’s World Cup.