Former Sale Sharks prop Darren Fearn believes the new BUCS Super Rugby competition is the perfect preparation for the next generation of players to hone in on their skills.
Having previously been split into north and south leagues, this season sees the best eight rugby universities combined into one competition across an entire season.
Now head coach, Fearn’s Northumbria University kick things off by travelling to Cardiff early in October and will be hoping to make it all the way to the showpiece at Twickenham on March 26.
And with his playing days now behind him, the 27-year-old Fearn is now keen to give back to the university who first gave him a chance in the first place.
“I used to go to Northumbria University, didn’t come through any academies, went to a normal school and was picked up by the Newcastle Falcons,” he said.
“I was able to make a career through that with the Bedford Blues and Sale Sharks, and now I’ve got a job which is very close to my heart.
“Northumbria gave me the opportunity and the setup and support is magnificent, the whole ethos is fantastic and we need to back that up with the rugby.
“We’ve got no excuses not to, this is a long process but we’ve got to be progressive and what an opportunity to do it.
“It doesn’t always happen when you’re young. I personally think getting into professional rugby through university is the better option, because unless you’re playing at Twickenham every week, you’re not going to be able to retire from the game and live the high-life.
“So you need something to fall back on so you can go into another profession.”
The new BUCS Super Rugby league sees the eight best university teams compete weekly across the season, allowing students to enjoy a high quality of rugby on a daily basis – a venture supported by the RFU.
And for Fearn, who also featured for the Newcastle Falcons, the high calibre of competition is exactly what the players need at that level.
“This is an opportunity to play in that top-flight level, week in week out against the best universities in the country,” he added.
“Every week is going to be a battle, a real hard graft, but we’ve had experience of playing against the northern teams in the past, so it will be a good ding-dong battle with Durham.
“We know a lot of their coaching staff, they’ve got a great setup there and for the supporters watching it will be a great atmosphere. It will be good to get into it, we’ve had some pre-season games and we’re learning every week.
“It’s a great opportunity to play top quality rugby, progressing on the rugby ladder while also getting a strong academic side. All the performance sports really push that at Northumbria, you push both angles and then you can have a degree and the chance to play professional rugby, which a lot of players have done in the past.
“We’ve said to the lads that it will be a progressive year, things won’t happen overnight and we’re going to look forward to every game, work hard against some big Welsh lads which will be a real good test.”
BUCS Super Rugby is a new national league, bringing together the eight best men’s university rugby teams in the country. The league is run by British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) and powered by Rugby Vertical. For more info visit www.bucs.org.uk/superrugby