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My Life in Rugby: Budge Pountney – former Northampton and Scotland back row

Budge PountneyWhen Northampton won the Heineken Cup in 2000 you won’t see a single picture of me and Alan Bateman at the post-match celebrations.

The rest of the team were doing a big lap of honour around Twickenham but we had spotted some magnums of what we thought were champagne and decided to get in first.

We got over the initial disappointment of finding out it was Heineken and by the time the rest of the team came in we were three sheets to the wind.

It was an incredible atmosphere at Twickenham that day. If ever anyone had wanted to loot Northampton that was the day because every single person in the town was there watching.

That was our first taste of the Heineken Cup and it was pretty special.  We were a little bit lucky with Ronan O’Gara missing a penalty for Munster which he wouldn’t usually miss but it was one of those games where whichever team won could probably claim they deserved it.

Northampton is very special to me because it was where I started and Sir Ian McGeechan was my first coach there. He had a real impact on my career.

As a mentor he was perfect, he liked playing that quick rucking style that they had in Scotland and really suited my game. He also had a big influence on my international career. With my grandmother coming from the Channel Islands I was able to play for any of the home nations, and although I played for England Students and U21s, I never really felt like I fitted in.

Jack Rowell was the coach and he was of the view that no one under 6ft 1in would start in the back row, so there was no way I was going to play for them.

Scotland was a much better fit but I was pretty nervous at the first training camp showing up with my English accent.

I served my time, coming through the A team, but even so I’m grateful to the players for accepting me in the way they did.

It was a great honour to captain my country, even before the 1999 Five Nations win, which was very special.

We got a fantastic win in Paris and were back home when England played Wales. A load of us Scots at Northampton were at Matty Stewart’s place when Scott Gibbs went over at Wembley. It was unbelievable, and thankfully Neil Jenkins got the conversion that saw us win it.

Unfortunately my time with Scotland ended on a sour note. I don’t regret saying what I thought about the set-up being unprofessional. But if I had the chance again I’d probably do it a little differently.

My playing career ended shortly afterwards because of three major injuries.  I got a small bone spur in my neck, I lost a testicle and then fractured and dislocated an ankle, all in 12 months.

I didn’t really want to go into coaching but Saints were not in a great place so I agreed to step in with Paul Grayson.

That was a very tough time. I had played rugby for the friendships and working with guys you had been playing with was very difficult.

After five years away from it, working as a citing officer, I am now coaching at a school in the New Forest. It’s good fun working with some enthusiastic youngsters.

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