Many top-class rugby players tend to start their careers with the club they end up serving for a bulk of their time.
For instance, the likes of Jeremy Guscott, Rory Underwood and even Johnny Wilkinson started with a big club and remained there for much of their career. Whilst some players do filter up the system, our game is very unlike football where younger players often serve time in the lower ranks.
That does not make our National League any less of a breeding ground though, with plenty of internationals across a range of countries appearing for clubs in our divisions. Sometimes, it is students playing university rugby that grace our league before they move up through the divisions.
Our ranks currently boast a host of players who could go on to represent their country, including Sale Sharks fly-half Kieran Wilkinson, who has been selected for England at Under 17 and Under 18 level. If he were to end up in the senior squad, he would follow in the footsteps of these five internationals who began their careers with clubs currently in our ranks.
Ipswich-born Hipkiss attended the prestigious Uppingham School in Rutland, before going on to nearby Loughborough University, where he played for their rugby union side whilst studying Sports Science. He later moved to Leicester Tigers, getting his first Premier League experience at the age of 23.
In 2007, he was part of the England side that lost in the World Cup Final to South Africa. The defeat came four years after the famous 2003 win, which cemented England’s place as rugby union greats in Europe. Bwin explains how England are the most successful international team in Europe, with one World Cup win, more than any other nation. They have also finished as runner up on three occasions, including 2007 with Hipkiss in the side.
May has also appeared at a Rugby World Cup, but has not appeared in a final game. He played once in 2015 as England lost to Wales, as well as appearing twice last year, in matches against Argentina and Australia. His most recent outing came against France in this year’s Six Nations tournament, a game England lost 17-24. May was also dual registered with Birmingham Moseley and Gloucester in 2010, appearing 15 times for the former who are now in National League 1.
Lagos-born Ubogu is another who played for Moseley and, like Hipkiss, he did so whilst a student. He studied chemical engineering at Birmingham University and turned out for them during that period, before appearing for Oxford and Bath. He made 24 appearances for his adopted nation in the 1990s, finishing in 1999.
Goode was born in the university city of Cambridge, and was blessed with a talent in two sports: football and rugby. He spent time with Ipswich Town’s academy before choosing rugby and playing for Bath and Cambridge RFU of the National League in his youth career. He went on to play for Saracens, his current club, as well as making a handful of England appearances, 21 in total. He scored his solitary international try against Fiji in 2016.
Offiah is famed as a rugby league legend, but he began his career in rugby union, firstly with Ipswich and later our own Rosslyn Park. He even appeared on the rugby sevens circuit and was discussed as a future England international.
He switched disciplines and went on to find fame in rugby league with Widnes, Wigan and the London Broncos amongst others. He did appear for England, albeit in Rugby League, where he jointly holds the record for the most tries scored in a single match, grabbing four against France in 1996. He also represented Great Britain 33 times, scoring 26 tries.