Ugo Monye recalls how he was not even the fastest in his school year as he highlights the “untapped talent” available to rugby in state education.
Monye was 13-years-old when he secured a sports scholarship from Churchmead to Lord Wandsworth College where he was exposed to the game for the first time having previously dreamed of playing for Arsenal or becoming an elite-level athlete.
He went on to forge a successful career that included England and Lions selection, but as an early teenager even the former Harlequins wing was left trailing by rivals.
Eddie Jones ignited a heated debate last week when he stated that English rugby is suffering because of its reliance on a private school system that produces players who lack leadership, resolve and skill.
For Moneye the focus should be on expanding the sport’s presence in state education knowing from first hand experience the potential available there.
“We have a well trodden production line from private school to academy to playing for England, but we’re talking about seven per cent of the population. There’s 93 per cent that is fairly untapped,” Monye told the PA news agency in support of the Bioglan Balance campaign.
“I went to state school and then at the age of 13 went to a private school where I got exposed to rugby.
“When I played on the world sevens circuit, I was the quickest. I reckon that at my best I was the quickest in the Premiership and I’d have been one of the quickest on the international circuit. But at my state school I wasn’t even the quickest in my year.
“In athletics, if I was getting into the final of a district trials I was doing well. There is an unbelievable untapped market out there who just don’t have the opportunity.
“Lots is being done and there are some great initiatives that connect clubs with local schools, but if you could invest time into other schools that are not on the radar, they would find untapped talent which would only be good for our game.
“None of this is a slight on the public school sector because it has served the country so well and produced some incredible rugby players and ambassadors for our country.
“I’m a product of it and I wouldn’t have played rugby had I not gone to private school. But I do think the state school sector could provide as many, if not more, if the opportunities were there. How we provide those opportunities is the million dollar question.”
Monye, who sits on the Rugby Football Union’s independent diversity advisory group, believes the sport needs outside assistance if it is to broaden its appeal.
“This is bigger than rugby or the RFU, it’s a government thing. After England got to the (men’s) Euros final, Boris Johnson pledged £50million into football and said he didn’t want any kid to be more than 15 minutes away from a football pitch,” Monye said.
“That amount of money would sort out rugby, netball, badminton, hockey. The disparity between the national sport will always be there if it’s getting the majority of the funding and we’re just picking up the scraps.
“It needs to be supported by the Government because state schools just don’t have the facilities or the coaches.”
Former Rugby Player Ugo Monye has partnered with supplement brand Bioglan for their first series ‘In Bioglan Balance’ alongside influencer Mat Carter to show how he finds balance in his busy life. To watch the series, visit @bioglansupplements on Instagram