Did you play with any future professionals when you were younger? Was it obvious even then that they would go on to play professionally?

  1. Small world. The wife of a friend used to teach Manu. Remember her saying that he wasn’t exactly the most academically gifted student, which might not be surprising.

  2. I got spear tackled by Danty when I was in U16 at Stade Français.. He got expelled by the coach from the training (it was an opposition at the end of the training between U16 and U18)

  3. Got steamrolled on the wing by Kyle Sinkler when he was playing for Battersea Ironsides U18, he used to take all their kicks as well. What I remember most was staggering to my feet and my mate who'd just been subbed off howling with laughter on the sideline.

  4. Keith Earls ended me in a try saver tackle at u16s or u17s and my coach picked me up off the floor with a “I wouldn’t worry about that son, he’s gonna go pro”.

  5. I played school and club rugby with Benji Marshall who played for the Blues in nz but made his name and career in rugby league. Oddly, he didn't start in our school's 1st xv ( and didn't deserve to) but he would DESTROY when we played adult club rugby in the afternoons.

  6. Funny what you say about Benji, it might not be true but I read somewhere that at school level Brendan McCullum (NZ cricketer) was keeping Dan Carter out the 10 shirt!

  7. I wasn’t great at rugby but Owen Farrell went to my school when I was younger. I remember watching a match he was playing in against a rival school in our area but he only came on for the last 15 minutes or something - I think he was already signposted as being too good to play full competitive matches at such a low level. Anyway, I remember he bulldozed his way through their team and scored a try but did a ‘roly-poly’ type move when he put the ball down which was funny to most people apart from the opposition. The only thing was that his dad, Andy Farrell, was on the touch line and after the match gave him a massive bollocking at the other end of the pitch when the match ended. I remember hearing him screaming at him from the other end of the field. Think he wanted to give him a lesson on how to be humble! Anyway, it was amazing to watch him when we were younger - he was clearly so much better than anyone else, even the guys a lot older than him.

  8. I played against Farrell when he was at Harpenden. Think he was playing up a year as well. Heard he was on the books for a football and cricket team as well as Sarries at the time. Don't remember him that much on the field, but I do remember my team mate punching him and getting a yellow.

  9. Played against Cipriani a couple of times and yes it was obvious but it was also obvious to him. His attidude was poor and his school team suffered. Not sure he cared - he already had his wasps contract.

  10. David flatman was in the same team and has talked about Sheridan on his pod, was just silly apparently. Think he was a second row back then

  11. Was in the same year at school as Billy Vunipola, 1(?) year down from Mako. Played against Billy once during interform. Once. It was obvious that he was leagues better than everyone else.

  12. Played with a fair few lads who are currently playing Super Rugby/NPC - the guys who currently play pro in the forwards weren't anything special, just put in the grunt and wanted it more than the rest of us I suppose. Lads who play in the backs would stand out more, though they've gone over to France (D2) or MLR. One dude ended up playing Sevens for Scotland somehow, though he was kitting up for Edinburgh at the time. He was brilliant even when we were kids though, and a gem of a human to boot. Think he's studying at Cambridge now.

  13. Played against Cian prenedergast and made the mistake of trying to get under his skin. He literally lifted me off my feet to have words with me

  14. I vaguely remember watching Marcus Smith play when I was younger. He's a couple of years older than me so I didn't play with him. He was comfortably the best but not other worldly. That said, I was in prep school so I wouldn't place much value in my judgement.

  15. Cameron Woki in a 10s tournament in 2018(I think). You've seen how quick and good he is with the ball with 15 guys on the pitch, now imagine him with more space. Absolutely blew me up a few times in some rucks.

  16. I got beaten 36-0 in the Ulster Schools Cup Final by a team that contained Niall Annett, Conor Carey, Paddy Jackson and Craig Gilroy.

  17. So this isn’t quite on the same level as you lot. But I’m proud to say I regularly used to beat two outside backs who are now contracted to professional unions (1 WP player and 1 Bulls player) in the 100m at school. That was the pinnacle of my sports career but I’m fairly certain one of them has a good shot at wearing the green and gold in the future...

  18. Seb Davies is a couple of years older than me and played for the same club, and was always the best player on the pitch whenever I saw him play. Owen Lane is my age and played for our local rivals and he routinely took us apart. Ditto Rhys Carré the couple of times I played against him, trying to tackle him five metres from our own line is the closest I’ve ever come to a near death experience.

  19. Played with a few, against a few more.. the real eye opener was watching my pal play on the wing for England schools against New Zealand with a certain joe rokococo on the opposite wing… checked his sizeable ego pretty quick.

  20. Played with both Dan Lydiate and Sam Hobbs. Was always obvious it'd be what they were doing. Dan was a cool quiet guy, Sam was a classic obnoxious loud rugby lad.

  21. I was in school with Scott Quinell! Played against him in a probables vs possibles match (I was outside half he was the 8)! I was an ok 10 but 4 years younger and a third of his size at best! He picked the ball up from the back of the scrum 5 yards out with only me between him and the line! When I came too the most encouraging comment was “well, at least you didn’t move out of his way!”

  22. Played against Kyle Sinckler when he was at Battersea. I gave up traditional tackling techniques and attempted a form of judo takedown whenever he was one on one with me. He was playing 8 that day.

  23. I didn't play rugby in high school but I went to the same school with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. I'm a form older and I remember seeing him as a very athletic kid on his first year.

  24. Overlapped briefly with Jack O'Donoghue at Waterpark. He was about 4 years younger than me and we were short a few bodies for under 20s. Even at 15/16 he was a man and had outstanding ability. Kind of puts into perspective that this guy is very much a fringe international but a solid pro at provincial level.

  25. I played against Itoje when he was at Harpenden and at Harrow in the daily Mail cup - and Max Crumpton when he was playing for westcliffe a few times at colts level. Both of them were absolute demons. I also was at a trial game at London broncos in rugby league and got completely boshed by Mason Caton-Brown.

  26. Played with John Cooney for a season. He was very good, but at the time I wouldn't have said he'd go pro. Delighted he's had such a successful career tho, incredibly nice guy and trained hard. A really decent person. He was also kept on the bench for a year by Connacht's winger Matt Healy, who was a scrum half at underage level.

  27. I played at school with Lee Blackett. He was always talented but was really lightweight so it was easy to bully him a bit on the field.

  28. I played against Mirco Bergamasco , he ended up getting several caps for Italy including slotting 7/7 against France. You could tell right away yes

  29. Played against Mark Wilson about 15 years ago. Also my mate who I went to uni with played against Nick Abendanon. Played with Aaron Myers who went on to play England 7s and Micky Young. Mark Wilson stood out like even as a 17/18 year old. A hard dude.

  30. Not with, but against Antoine Dupont in French school rugby. He was already with Toulouse at the time at a school called Bellevue i believe (not too sure as it was a one day tournament which many different schools from the region).

  31. I played against Ben Earl at sevens. I was a year older and he hadn’t lost his weight and toned up. He ran round our entire team in the U18s Kent 7s, boshed our sweeper, and scored straight from kick off. After that I didn’t think we were going to win.

  32. Tackled tommy Seymour in school. Hurt like fuck. Was mates with quite a few lads who played for ulster, but not long term. Seymour was the only one who was a step above tbh

  33. I played with a few, most notably Guido Petti, he played on a 'rival' school, even though no one now still plays rugby, by then we had a pretty good team and usually beat his. (probably my biggest highlight in my school career is tackling him after he recieved a game starting drop, think we even got a pen for it) He was physically on another level, but IMO lacked a bit at the technical area, but was also very good too.

  34. Played with a couple of guys who are now pro with Munster for a good few years (David Sweetnam, Gavin Coombes, James French, Crowley was playing junior cup while i was in senior)

  35. Before he got his first game, Crowley was the academy played you’d hear the most about, second goes to Okeke - can’t wait until him and Coombes are fighting for 8 (even though I love Coombes as much as Exeter love Sam Simmonds)

  36. D'Arcy Graham was shit for Hawick Wands. My mate had him beat every time at the sprinting. Couldn't tackle. Some improvement though credit to him.

  37. When I played in high school there was no professional rugby in the US. The thought of playing professionally abroad was like a fairy tale.

  38. I too have played former pro players in vets games. It is scary how good they are even decades later and even when they play horribly out of position.

  39. Maybe shouldn’t have gone into contact so upright when he didn’t have the conditioning to back it up anymore?

  40. I played with Pierre-Henri Azagoh (capped with France in the Australia tour last year) between U10 and U14. Frankly, couldn't say it was obvious he would make it. He was bigger/taller than evryone even if he was a year younger, but that's it. Not that "hard" into contact and not that fast. I knew he went to Massy. So I was quite surprised when a few years later, I saw him enter the field in the 2018 JRWC final against England.

  41. Not with anyone but one match against Alex Fidow and the two Umaga-Jensen brothers, all three of whom are currently super rugby players. Yeah, it was pretty clear where they were going. Absolutely steamrolled us.

  42. Played rugby for Hartpury so there was a fair few. Barrington and Cuthbert were in my class, Jason Woodward for a bit on an exchange from NZ. Dan Robson & Ryan Mills came in a year behind. There were a ton of really good players, but Jonny May was different gravy, un-naturally quick, and he was forever doing extra bits of training, always seemed like he would make it.

  43. I played lock and I did train with and played against other locks who went on to play professionally in the English Championship, both with Coventry. And yes I could absolutely tell the difference. The guy I played against was huge and he bullied me off the field, and the guy I trained with was still a colt when I was a senior player, and he was really tall and fast.

  44. Jade Konkel- picked me up and threw me down. Only woman to have ever done so! I’m 5’10 and a heavy lass! I remember lying on my back thinking it was phenomenal 😂

  45. Played a few times with ex-Saints centre Jon Clarke growing up as he was the age group above me at our club before he went off to Bath juniors and then Bris. Definitely stood out. Just seemed to play the game at a different speed to everyone else.

  46. Played against Kieran Brookes at Junior Colts level when he played for Fylde. He didn’t start the game, by that point he was firmly established in the first team.

  47. In Fourth and Fifth form I was in the same team as a half-back who went on to go pro. He was called up to play for our Province in Seventh form. He wasn't the star of the team when I played with him, but he was a much better player than most of us. The main thing I remember is that he just didn't make mistakes. That and he always ordered us forwards around all game.

  48. Went to school with ian prior from the force, he was pretty average back then, nothing special, but hes obviously improved a lot.

  49. Played against Iain Balshaw at school. He was just untouchable. Remember him scooping up a shit pass at 3/4 pace. It would've been shin level. Then he carved through and touched down. Nice guy with it though. Really humble and escaped the stereotypical gifted back.

  50. I went to school with Nathan Grey and Mat Rogers. I never played with them (unless touch rugby on the oval on a Sunday afternoon counts) but everyone knew they'd go onto great things. Just magnitudes better than everyone else.

  51. Played against Christian Lealiafano, had to mark him in a game once. Never laid a hand on him, he just seemed to have so much time on the ball compared to everyone else.

  52. Played against George North in a sevens tournament in Llanelli. He beat me once with power (I wasn't the biggest teen so this wasn't the shock). When he then beat me with his feet and left me in his dust, that was humiliation. He even picked me up off the floor and ruffled my hair on his way back to the halfway line,

  53. Played with the Ioane brothers, Shaun Stevenson, Sione Havili at school level, and played with a few more current SR players in rep rugby.

  54. 11-year-old Matt Proctor stepped the entire opposition defence at least once a game. The rest of us were utterly garbage.

  55. I played with Antoine Gibert (currently at Racing 92) and we were both coached by Jules Plisson. Gibert was very good but not that good that I thought he'd be pro. But he was super super tough on himself (and on his teammates I might add) and kept working super hard to become a better player.

  56. I played in the same team as Julian Huxley who went on to Reds/Brumbies/Wallabies. He was one of the top 3 players in that team and it's interesting that the other guy who was on his level never went on to pro sports. The 3rd player on that team went on to represent Australia at U18 but again never went on to higher honours. Funny how things work out

  57. Not quite the same as a lot of other guys on here but I’ve coached 2 kids that ended up getting MLR contracts and they were head and shoulders better than the other kids. They were the men playing against boys on the pitch.

  58. I didn’t play ‘with’ but was in the same year group as Asafo Aumua. He was an absolute weapon, often playing 8 and occasionally midfield back. He wasn’t necessarily bigger than the average player but very stocky and quick. You could definitely tell he was going onto bigger things he stood out amongst our year group with Losi Filipo (Samoa) and Tarquinn Alatipi (Rabbitohs).

  59. I played against Hamish Stewart. He was decidedly average, if I’m honest. Our flyhalf who smoked a pack of cigarettes every other day was far superior.

  60. I played with a lad who got a load of caps for the mighty rugby nation of Jordon. Also played against Luke Abraham a couple times he was one of the this big strong types that looked 30 at 15.

  61. I played with quite a few players who went on to play professionally through school/club/rep rugby teams.

  62. Growing up in Scotland it's quite likely that people (if they played at the top school level) will have played with/against some guys. The first XV I played in had 4 guys who ended up playing professionally to varying degrees. They were all *excellent* players at school level and their reading of the game/how seriously they took it was next level, none of them were totally ridiculous physical specimens at that point though. I think their level of play in the pros was diminished somewhat by the fact that it was a good school, and they were bright guys so they had career opportunities outside rugby too, and it was never a 'cert' that they were going to stick with it. I do remember playing against John Barclay in particular who was absolutely excellent.

  63. When I was 11 I played several times against Cameron Woki as he was playing for our main rival Bobigny. Completely forgot about it until a commentator mentionned where he was brought up during his first international cap, then I realised his face reminded me of something.

  64. Played against Adam Byrne of Leinster back when he played for Naas. Also pretty sure I had my elbow bent inwards intentionally by Jack McGrath in a scrum during a blitz game.

  65. My Dad is about 90% sure I played against Maro Itoje when I was a kid as are the other dads from our team. He’s the same age group as me, played for Harpenden at around the right age and he remembers an absolute beast of a lock who played for Harpenden.

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