NOT many people get one shot at becoming a professional rugby player, let alone two.
But Hartpury student Harry Casson, a player who was once released by Gloucester Rugby, is aiming to make the most of any second chance he gets in the game.
The 22-year-old lock from Bristol grew up playing for Cleve RFC in Mangotsfield and was signed up by the Cherry and Whites when he was just 18.
Living in a house with up-and-coming starlets Dan Robson, Ryan Mills, Gareth Evans, Tom Heard, Rob Langley and Koree Britton, Casson failed to kick on into the first team squad like his mates.
Determined to show the Kingsholm coaches he had learned the error of his ways, Casson got his head down and began studying Sports Coaching at Hartpury.
In November he was selected along with a number of other bright young talents to represent Gloucester at Kingsholm against international side Fiji.
Last week his comeback culminated in him helping England Students record their first-ever win over IRB members Portugal.
With Casson finishing university in three months’ time and going out into the big wide world, he is determined to make a better go of it second time around.
“It’s unheard of that you will see a player get a second chance to get back into the professional environment,” Casson said.
“It’s a very small percentage of players that can actually make that step and make it as a career as a professional rugby player. Being at Gloucester for a year was a brilliant experience and it kind of opens your eyes to a professional environment.
“But given my age and my mind set, I was not really ready for it yet so I got released and then I came into another professional environment at Hartpury.
“I like to think it has spurred me on and given me a bit of a kick up the backside to get my head around the professional environment again.
“I could not really bend my mind around doing rugby day in and day out.
“I was a bit immature and I was young but then it got to the point where I didn’t have rugby day in and day out and I had a very unstructured kind of lifestyle and it was a massive culture shock for me.
“The guys I lived with had the right mindset from day one.
“They were professional boys and they were going to make it regardless of anything that happened.
“I should have probably took their advice and got my head down and got some work done.
“But I was not in the right frame of mind and I was too immature for it.
“It was all down to me, we had a great schedule, I did not go out enough to say that it was too much going out.
“I like to think I had quite a healthy lifestyle.
“I just was not developing at the rate that they wanted me to and they had to release me as a result of it.”
Casson’s Hartpury course allows him the chance to go down a number of different paths if professional rugby does not come knocking on his door again.
Modules covering video analysis and strength and conditioning coaching open up potential alternatives which could still keep him close to the sport.
While most students will be starting to turn their attentions to life after university right now, Casson said it is different for those wanting to go into rugby.
As well as trying to finish their courses and get the marks they need to pass, now is the time of the year when negotiations begin with potential clubs.
Having tasted life as a professional player once, though, Casson is determined to learn from his mistakes and make the most of it if he gets another opportunity.
“Rugby’s a different lifestyle to the real world, you’re still in your comfort zone, and you’re still doing what you’re good at day in day out,” he added.
“You’re developing in things you’ve been doing for years.
“I worked before I went to college and I worked throughout college and I like to think I could hold my own in the real world.
“But it’s a change of thought process between students that are going into the real world and students that are looking to go towards rugby.
“Our planning for the years to come happens very late on in the year.
"That’s when you start talking about clubs and start talking about where do you want to go and where do you think you can go.
“Obviously people who have planned to go into the real world have got the whole time they’ve been at university to think about what you want to do afterwards and where do you want to go.
“That’s the thing Hartpury’s good for, it gives you the tools, it gives you everything you need to be able to develop yourself into a professional rugby player.
“I can’t say what the future holds for me as of yet, not at the moment.
“We’re in the very early stages of negotiations and talking, so I have no idea where I’m going yet.”