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Varsity Match 2016: Charlie Amesbury switches professional rugby for Cambridge University

Cambridge University Rugby. Charlie Amesbury. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University Rugby. Charlie Amesbury. Picture: Keith Heppell

From Bristol to Twickenham

With a shock of bright blonde hair, there is no mistaking the sight of Charlie Amesbury galloping forward from full-back.

It is an image that Cambridge University will be hoping to see repeated time and again today (Thursday, December 8) at Twickenham against Oxford as they bid to arrest a run of six successive Varsity Match defeats.

And Amesbury has shown that he is more than capable of being the cutting edge and difference between the sides – but it is no surprise given his background in the professional game.

The 30-year-old is on a two-month sabbatical from Premiership rugby side Bristol, after starting a two-year course at Queens’ College studying social innovations.

“I’ve had a career as a rugby player and if I’m honest I’m at the twilight of my years playing the game, even though I love it and will try to play more if I can. But I know that the end is nigh so I need to be looking for the next option,” said Amesbury.

“What better place than to come to one of the world’s best universities to get a masters in social innovation, which I’m really enjoying, that will hopefully kick me on for my next phase of life.

“I wanted to come to the Judge Business School because I know it’s got a very good reputation and I thought a business degree would be good to learn.

“But then I saw this masters in social innovation which is new, it marries up the ethics of trying to do good in the world, but also with the opportunity to make money whilst doing it – so it sounds like the perfect match if you can get it right.”

Amesbury’s timing is immaculate on the pitch, with razor sharp incisions, but some may question why he turned to education just as Bristol returned to the Premiership.

He had been offered a new contract in the south west, but as he was not playing regularly the former England sevens player had signalled to then director of rugby Andy Robinson that he wanted to go to university.

“I said to him that if I left Bristol I didn’t really want to play for another club because I really enjoyed it there, and he offered me the option ‘if you get in, I don’t mind if you take these two months off because we have got a big squad and strength in depth’,” said Amesbury.

“And it was an opportunity that I had to bite his hand off really.

“I got in and I managed to get a couple of games in at Bristol before I left which was very good, but I have come here and really enjoyed the rugby and really enjoyed the studies.”

It is Amesbury’s first experience of studying full-time as his previous degree in biology was done part-time while playing rugby.

So he has been keen to soak up all that the experience has to offer.

“I wanted to come in and learn everything first before and I think that makes it really,” he said.

“These are all traditions that have been going on for over 100 years and you’ve got to pay respect to that.

“It just shows you that a lot of people have walked before you and it makes you very humble. To uphold these traditions is a real plus for the culture of Cambridge, and culture of the boys because this stuff has been passed down for a while and really makes the place special.”

The amateur ways of the institution orgininally surprised Amesbury, but he appreciates that it is one of the main appeals.

“That’s the whole point of the Varsity,” he said. “It’s the biggest amateur bastion left. It hasn’t been infiltrated by professionalism, which I think is a good thing because we’ve got enough professional rugby in the world anyway so this is what makes the point of difference.

“The thing for me is that we’ve got a great pitch and a great bunch of guys to work with and we’ve developed so much over the time, it’s been great.

“The fact that we really have come on in the last couple of months shows me that we have a bunch that are willing to learn, willing to stick together and hopefully willing to put in the winning performance.”


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