The academy system remains the traditional route for rugby’s brightest stars, with talent spotters often identifying precocious talent at ever-increasingly younger age groups.
That said, there have been instances of several current international rugby stars who have taken unorthodox routes to the summit of the sport.
1. Joe Launchbury (England)
The lock has been an international mainstay for years following a testing start to his rugby career. Harlequins decided not to offer Launchbury a professional contract at 18, the lock left Quins and joined the then National League 2 South side Worthing for the 2009–10 season.
His performances at the South coast club under Will Green, the then head coach and former London Wasps player, saw him recommend Launchbury to his former club. He played in several A-League matches for Wasps and, after a spell training with the Eastern Province Kings in South Africa, signed a full time contract in 2010.
There was still work to do for the young forward though as he also joined National League 1 side Rosslyn Park on loan to gain senior experience. Through his hard work Launchbury has since become a stalwart in the Wasps side and following his incredible journey has now won 65 caps for England