THREE years have passed since Ben Ransom last made it onto the Twickenham pitch.
Then a 23-year-old with the rugby world at his feet, he crossed in Saracens’ bonus-point win against Worcester in the London Double Header.
On Thursday, Ransom will be back at HQ in a different capacity, lining up in the dark blue of Oxford in the Varsity Match. After a frustrating 2017/18 season at London Irish, Ransom retired from the professional game this summer, and is studying for an MBA at Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
“Last year was a difficult one for me,” he admits. “I didn’t get as much love as I thought I was going to get. I was playing quite well in the ‘A’ league, but as a team we weren’t playing well.
“We were struggling, so I could sort of understand why I wasn’t getting a shot, but at the end of the day every rugby player is selfish and wants to play, so it was hard for me.
“I had a year left on my contract, but left early. At 26, I feel like it’s the right decision. I’m not missing that professional set-up as I feared I might, and it’s refreshing to be in this environment where you’ve got academics and sport entwined.”
Ransom’s first-team appearances were limited to the European Challenge Cup last year, but he does not look back with regrets. “In the Championship, I was playing on the wing and really enjoyed it,” he says, “but in the second year, it was probably a case of bad timing. I wasn’t showing the coaches enough: we had lots of options – top players like Topsy Ojo, Joe Cokanasiga – and I didn’t get that game time I felt I needed.”
Ransom’s long-term goal may be a career in finance, but he hasn’t lost his competitive spark. He added: “A university side is never going to compare to a professional set-up wbut the guys here are committed.
“For some of the squad it’s going to be one of the biggest games they’ll ever play in. It’s a case of getting our own shapes and processes right and making sure that we can perform under pressure.”
Ransom adds: “I was a younger player in my professional career so it’s interesting coming in here. I’m an older player, but not more experienced in terms of understanding what the Varsity is all about – one of our guys has played in it four times!
“For me it’s about learning about the culture and the history behind the fixture and everyone’s buying into that: we’re all aiming to beat Cambridge.”