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Former Island pupil in the running for England Rugby squad

Wednesday 20 October in Sport

With less than three years to go until the 2023 Rugby World Cup, England’s head coach Eddie Jones is on the search for new blood, thirsty for fresh and upcoming talent. Jones has been head hunting the country’s top emerging players with the aim to secure a squad that can take England to victory in Paris 2023.

Amongst the list of young male athletes hoping to seal the deal of approval from Jones is a name many Islanders will be familiar with, Bevan Rodd. The 21-year-old Sale Sharks player and ex-Buchan pupil has been charging into the sport ever since he could remember. After stealing the show during his debut performance against Northampton Saints in 2019, he has been dubbed as ‘a big lad’ with ‘a big future.’

Islandlife’s Tia Welsh spoke to Bevan to find out more:

Originally born in Scotland, Bevan moved to Dubai with his parents when he was a toddler. Playing rugby on the beach and with the locals led him to fall in love with the game – a sport he continued in the Isle of Man when his family relocated.

During his time on the Island, Bevan attended the Buchan School until year six, where he also dabbled in local hockey, before being brought under the wing of local rugby coach and PE teacher, Neil MacGregor. Bevan revealed how it was Neil who helped to kickstart his sporting career, putting him forward for trials for a rugby program called ‘The Lambs’ at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, which ultimately led to him being offered a scholarship in his final year at the Buchan.

“Neil MacGregor had a huge influence on me,” he explained. “Even though he saw rugby as a high priority in his life, he still encouraged his players to enjoy the game and have fun. At ten years old I saw him as this colossal action man who was tackling Ironman challenges! He’s still one of the best coaches I’ve trained under and I stay in touch with him still after all this time.”

The pathway to professional rugby was not something Bevan had ever considered, until asked at the age of fifteen which national team he would play for. “I remember not being able to answer,” he recalled wistfully, “It’s not a decision I thought I’d ever have the opportunity to make. You always have the idea of playing professionally in the back of your mind, but you know deep down the chances are slim.”

It was never going to be an easy decision, given his Scottish heritage, but Bevan opted for England believing the pathway and opportunities would be better suited to his strengths.

Boarding at Sedbergh School helped to cement his taste for the sport, moulding him into the player he is now. After leaving school Bevan moved to Manchester, signing a contract deal with Sale Sharks Rugby Club.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live, work and breathe, and its effect on rugby was huge. “It was really weird,” he said, “You’d go into training and have to keep your distance from everyone - no handshakes, no contact, nothing, it was very alienating.”

He also went on to talk about how the first match against Bristol in front of a live crowd after weeks of playing in front of empty stadiums, will forever remain engrained in his memory. When asked about his most memorable match, he paused.

“I can’t really pin it on one,” he sighed, “there’s too many. But one of my top highlights has to be the match against Toulon, it blew my mind playing against the sportsmen I had grown up watching!”, he recalled, his eyes sparking at the memory. “It was pretty cool to experience and definitely helped me to raise my game. Although a match is only 80 minutes, it’s 80 minutes I’ll never forget.”

Athletes at this level are naturally ambitious and Bevan is no exception. The 6ft 2 player has his sights set on being selected for the World Cup Squad, with 100 caps at Sale Sharks and British Lions also amongst his bucket list, not forgetting the major millennial adjustment of becoming a full-time adult. “I’d like to have my own place sometime”, he joked.

His enthusiasm for the game, team comradery and spirit are what make Bevan an admirable player, with optimism that is arguably contagious.

As for his advice to aspiring rugby players? “Just learn as much as you can.” While his words are simple, they certainly pack a punch. He acknowledges he isn’t the quickest player on the field, but also importantly notes that other aspects and skills of the game are just as vital to building those all-important basic rugby foundations. “Of course, enjoying the sport and the process is also key,” he added.

Looking to the future, he still hopes to visit the Isle of Man to catch up with old friends and share coaching tips, whilst enjoying home comforts. When asked to sum up his rugby experience so far, he said “Interesting, but aggressive”, his answer couldn’t paint a more accurate picture.

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