Harlequins No.13 Luke Northmore aims to follow teammate Alex Dombrandt in proving why university rugby is becoming a development route of choice.
Like England back row prospect Dombrandt, Northmore could barely have dreamed of a future in professional rugby when, aged 18, he spent his first year out of school working in a pasty shop while turning out for Tavistock RFC in the Devon & Cornwall League.
Rugby and boozy nights out were all the rage on the edge of Dartmoor, but life changed when, also in common with Dombrandt, he headed to Cardiff Met University to take a degree in strength & conditioning, rehab and massage.
Now fully ensconced in the first team squad at Harlequins after making his Premiership breakthrough, Northmore, 23, said: “I only started playing rugby when I was 15, just going to Tavistock Rugby Club with a few of my mates, but I loved it.
“I took a year out after school but didn’t do any travelling. I had a normal job in a pasty shop in Tavistock while playing rugby and enjoying the social side.
“I had no designs on a professional rugby career at that stage. It’s always the dream but it seemed a bit far-fetched for me. I just played senior rugby for Tavistock, had a few beers with those mates afterwards and that was my enjoyment of it.
“But after I went to Cardiff Met, in my second year I was fortunate to meet Bob Norster, the former Wales lock who’s now my agent, and he helped make the dream a reality. He told me what I needed to do to become a professional and my mentality switched.”
Northmore explained: “After speaking to Bob, I thought I could give it a good crack and having seen what Alex Dombrandt did, it gave me every incentive. The BUCS league is massive now and it’s becoming more competitive every year, so a lot of boys who’ve maybe slipped through the academy process now have another option to progress.
“Alex has made a lot of headway as a university player going into the professional game and has shown he can compete alongside the international stars. He’s been a big help to me and what he’s done will help a lot of other younger players to crack on and make it in the professional game because he’s been exceptional in his first two years.”
Having been named in the Harlequins side to face Sale in last month’s Premiership Cup final, seeing the game postponed proved a huge disappointment.
However, Northmore had already shown his potential in the Premiership and will be ready to stake a claim for a spot when play resumes.
He said: “There’s a big difference between university rugby and joining a top side like Harlequins. The intensity’s higher, training’s a lot tougher and there’ve been times when I’ve suffered niggling injuries due to my body getting used to the physicality.
“It took me a while to adjust but I’ve grown a lot as a player. Defence probably wasn’t the strongest part of my game but Paul Gustard said he could make me a good defender and that’s how it’s worked out, as my game understanding has improved.
“I spent a lot of time with Joe Marchant before he went to New Zealand, picking his brains, and James Lang did a great job at 13 before he was injured, so with those two back there’ll be really strong competition but it’s a challenge I’m ready for.”
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