The oldest rugby player in the UK celebrated his 76th birthday last weekend, and regularly turns out on a Sunday afternoon for his amateur club. Brian Sampson turned 76-years-old on Sunday 5th November, and is a frequent face around the pitch at Oakham Rugby Club in the East Midlands.
Sampson spoke to the Express about running out to play rugby, decades after most players would have hung up their boots. A father of two and grandfather of one, Sampson believes that playing for Oakham RFC ‘keeps him young’.
“I haven’t played first team rugby for decades but on Saturday I joined the first team for a match against Stockwood Park in Luton.
“The opposition team looked a bit surprised when they saw me warming up on the sideline, I think they thought I was someone’s granddad.
“They scored four tries in the first half but when I came on in the second half they only scored one so I must have been doing something right. I have no plans to hang up my boots. As long as I keep getting picked, I’ll keep playing. It keeps me young.”
Sampson believes that he has made over 2,000 appearences for a variety of clubs across Leicestershire and the East Midlands. He made his debut in 1966, some 21 years before the first Rugby World Cup, and 29 years before rugby became a professional sport. In Sampson’s hay-day, Wales dominated the Five Nations, as the likes of Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams entertained the crowds.
Coming through the ranks in the golden days of the amateur era, Sampson used to fly at full-back, but has since taken to packing down the scrum in the second row. The UK’s oldest rugby player added: “What I lack in a bit of pace I make up with experience, I’ve certainly got that so I can read the game a bit better so make sure I’m in the right place.
“Sometimes we get a new young player join the team and they’ll ask, ‘how old is that bloke, he’s older than my grandad’ but when they see my play they usually come up to me and say ‘fair play mate, you’ve still got it’.
“I’ve had a few things said in the past, but the opponents are usually quite nice and say ‘well done’ afterwards. It’s the interaction with other people I enjoy.”