Not only making their names in the world of rugby, some of the iconic figures of the game have also gone on to join the military at the peak of their careers, while others joined the army forces before their rugby careers got going.
Here are six of the most famous rugby figures who served in the military.
#6. Bill McLaren
- Served with the Royal Artillery in Italy during the Second World War
- Position – Legendary commentator
He was called up in 1942, aged 18, and used as a forward observance officer (spotter); on one occasion Bill was confronted by a mound of 1,500 corpses in an Italian churchyard. Local men, women and children had been caught up in the battle and had paid a terrible price. The Germans, too, had been wiped out and their corpses lay strewn in heaps in this cemetery along with those of the townsfolk.
It was an unpleasant experience he later recalled in his autobiography: “The boy I’d been was gone. I suspect he disappeared for ever on that awful morning. When you grow old, you look back on your life and reflect upon key stages, specific moments. That day in 1944 in Italy was certainly one of those key moments for me.”
Bill became 2nd Lieutenant 281771, Royal Artillery, and was involved in the fighting on the Italian peninsula for two whole years. In 1943 he was attached to 20/21 battery, 5 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, which he joined shortly after the Salerno landings.
It wasn’t until in February 1947 – having negotiated German snipers and artillery gunners, the worst excesses of the Italian climate and the physical fatigue and mental traumas associated with war – that Temporary Captain William Pollock McLaren was demobbed. Bill’s homecoming was tinged with sadness knowing that many of his comrades had not returned with him.
#5. Semesa Rokoduguni
- Serving soldier in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
- Position – Centre and wing
- Clubs and Teams: British Army from 2011, Bath from 2012 with 194 caps
- England – 2014 with 4 caps
Rokoduguni currently serves in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Fijian-born, he is the most successful military player in men’s rugby today. Despite operational commitments and a demanding job, he plays for Bath and has attained International status, having made his England debut in 2014.