Are you interested in playing rugby overseas but struggling with where to start? This article will talk you through the steps you need to take to make your dream a reality, and will touch on my own personal experience after moving overseas from London to play rugby in Byron Bay, Australia.
Step 1: Decide Where to Go
Most commonly players travel to play rugby overseas in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. These are the countries where you will find most clubs actively seeking players to join them. They offer opportunities for all levels from professional to amateur, making them highly sought after places to play rugby. Players can also try other big rugby playing nations such as South Africa and France.
Some emerging countries on the rugby scene can also offer an unforgettable experience such as Japan, the USA and other European countries. Pretty much every country that plays rugby will have opportunities available if you look hard enough. Whether you are heading on a working holiday, to a new job abroad, or anything in between – there are rugby playing opportunities all over the world.
If you are hoping to get paid to play while you are abroad it is much more common in the UK and Europe for clubs to offer their rugby players monetary packages – so I would recommend starting your search there. Unfortunately it is much harder in Australia and New Zealand.
Players looking to develop their game in the best leagues in Australia and New Zealand should head for the major cities, in particular Sydney and Brisbane. However, if you’re after a more rounded rugby experience, then rural areas and smaller communities can be a great fit.
Step 2: Find a Rugby Club
Speak to the experts – they know what they’re doing. Agencies create mutually beneficial relationships between players and overseas rugby clubs. Honing in on what both the club and player require makes the experience extremely straightforward. It saves you time aimlessly searching for rugby clubs on the internet, connecting you instantly with teams actively recruiting players abroad.
Make sure you know what kind of package you are after. For the right player, some rugby clubs may offer a retainer or match fees. Others will help cover the costs of flights and visas or even just assistance finding a job and accommodation. But, it’s not all about the money, the experience is invaluable and the networking opportunities at clubs can be helpful both while you’re there and in the future. Be clear with what you want when speaking with clubs, have honest conversations and don’t sell yourself short.
Once you’ve found a club or clubs you’re interested in they will more often than not ask for some video footage of you playing rugby. Being on the other side of the world, coaches can’t just come and watch you play, so the best way to show off your skills is through a highlights reel. In the past, I have used iMovie which is a great free video editing software found on apple devices. If your club or school uses Hudl they also have an easy to use function, helping you clip together and edit your video. Try to include the best aspects of your game across a whole season, not just from a couple of games. A lot of players make the mistake of only including tries and mammoth runs. Make no mistake these are important and an integral part of your attacking ability, but this doesn’t give the coaches a well rounded view of your rugby ability. You need to show prospective clubs that you’re not a one trick pony and can produce performances consistently. Think about what coaches over your playing career have always highlighted as important aspects of the game and include these within 3-5mins of footage. Player specific skills obviously also play an important part of rugby, for example lineout throwing for a hooker and box kicking for a scrum half.
Step 3: Arrange Your Visa & Flights
You’ll need a visa for the majority of overseas countries you may want to play in, especially if you want to work alongside playing rugby. On the whole, visas are quick, easy to acquire and allow you to work and stay for 12-24 months. Keep in mind if you’re heading to Australia that you’ll need to do 3 months of regional farm work if you want to stay for longer than a year. So don’t leave it too late because I guarantee you won’t want to leave after playing a season down under.
For a lot of these countries you can only get a visa once so make sure you’re prepared to make the most of it. Plan what you want to do and make sure you don’t leave with any regrets.
You’re definitely going to need a little bit of money in the bank to support yourself and have to prove this to immigration via bank statements when applying for your visa. Obviously, the cost of flights will need to be covered as well and they aren’t cheap when you’re travelling abroad over such a long distance. If you’re serious about making the move then you’d better start saving!
What’s it like?
After moving from my hometown of London to spend the past two years playing rugby abroad in Australia, I can confidently say that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. The opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and head to the other side of the world on my own was one that I have relished.
In my first year in Australia I played for Byron Bay, a small surfing town on the East Coast. The rugby club is notorious for welcoming travellers and backpackers from all over the world. I got to play alongside both Aussies and other overseas players from Northern Ireland to New Zealand, helping me to develop my rugby. The post match rugby culture is synonymous all over the world and is one of the best aspects of playing the sport in my opinion. The songs you sing and games you play don’t differ very much whether you’re on the south coast of England or the shores of Sydney.
Before moving overseas to Australia, living in the city was all I had ever known. In Byron Bay, the small beach town / laid back vibe was a totally different experience for me. It didn’t take long for me to embrace my new lifestyle – walking around in boardies (or budgies) and thongs is the new me!
Playing in a new country opens your eyes to different styles of rugby and different coaching methods. Having moved from the UK to Australia, I definitely noticed the desire to keep the ball in hand a lot more. I certainly wasn’t box kicking as much as I’m used to! Learning from players and coaches from across the globe has definitely improved my game, it has given me the confidence to step up to a higher level and play in the Brisbane Premier competition this year.
As cliche as it might sound, meeting new people and making friends for life is the best thing about playing rugby overseas. Meeting like minded people bound by a common goal allows you to quickly create meaningful friendships. In particular with other international players that are just settling into their new home. I have found that the local players and fans appreciate the sacrifices you make to come and play for their rugby club. You definitely feel special and valued as an overseas player which was something that I found really comforting.
What you need?
Most of all you need an open mind, be open to experiencing new places, people and lifestyles. Travelling and living overseas in a new country is a great way to broaden your horizons as a person but also as a rugby player.