My Life in Rugby: Spencer Brown – former Richmond, Bristol and England wing

Spencer BrownThe tour to Hell in 1998 should never have gone ahead. I was due to go only as back-up but ended up being thrown in and people say I  was one of the few players who came out with any credit.

We were decimated by injury and I spoke to a few of the lads who were part of the tour at an England Legends match in Ireland last week and we agree it shouldn’t have happened.

It was a cauldron in Brisbane against Australia but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was my England debut and I still look back with pride despite the 76-0 scoreline.

The South Africa game was a closer affair, we lost 18-0, and played quite well – performances did improve as we went along.

Quite a few players learnt a lot from that tour, and I certainly did.

I travelled the world with rugby and as a French horn player with the Royal Marines and I was extremely lucky to be paid to do both ‘hobbies’.

I was almost forced to quit the Marines and their band in 1996 when Richmond turned professional. It took a lot of negotiating and in the end I was helping out in the recruitment office in the Strand.

I saw the game make the transition to a professional sport first hand at Richmond; almost overnight you went from training two nights a week after work to every day.  I became a brilliant Playstation player with all the spare time I had even with the bits I did in the recruitment office.

It took a while to adjust, but I jumped at the chance to accept the contract from Richmond.

My time at the club was great, they helped me get into the England squad, particularly John Kingston – the coach at the time – and the likes of Alan Bateman.

It was a great environment to be in. I was there from 1991, when the club were still in National League 3, to 1999 when they went into administration in the Premiership.

I remember my first game for Richmond probably better than any other game.

I turned up at the club and asked to play. I was given an outing for the second team and scored seven tries – quite a debut.

It’s strange because I was quite a late developer, the turning point came when I joined the Marines at 17.

We had a physical training session and they asked all of us to move to one side if you wanted to play football and the other side for rugby – I’d been into football all my life but I fancied a change and never looked back.

I quit professional rugby in 2002 when my then wife, Gail, was diagnosed with cancer. She was being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Coventry and at the time I was at Bristol – I couldn’t commute.

I had a great time at Bristol, I thoroughly enjoyed the three years I had there and there were no low points at all, but I had to relocate, it was the right thing to do.

It was tough, but I’m glad I did it. I did resume playing a year after with Bedford Blues and that return lasted three years, and now I’m forging a career in strength and conditioning.

It’s something I really enjoy, I’m currently researching at Warwick University for my PhD and things are going really well.

I’m not working with professional clubs, I’m working with the general public. I’m trying to get the word out that strength and conditioning is relevant to anyone, not just top level athletes.

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