Now it's straight from the office to the gym... ...then it was a cup of tea and a pounds 2 10s allowance

RUGBY UNION WORLD CUP 1995 Tim Glover talks to internationals past and present and discovers how rugby union at the highest level has changed
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The Independent Online
Some international players find it easier to get time off than others. For Kyran Bracken and Brian Moore, two of England's high fliers, the going can be gruelling. In an amateur sport expected to become at least semi- professional, they hold down professional jobs as solicitors.

"Outside work and rugby I have no time for myself, and because I cannot prioritise either my sport or my job I have to give 100 per cent to both," Bracken said. "Building a career in a work-intensive profession is tough but not impossible."

Bracken, the 23-year-old Bristol scrum-half, made his debut for England against New Zealand at Twickenham in 1993 and was injured when Jamie Joseph stamped on his ankle. At least it gave Bracken time for his law studies at the University of West of England, formerly Bristol Polytechnic. Last October he started work at Alsters, one of Bristol's leading law firms, as an articled clerk.

"I feel envious of many of the guys at the England sessions," Bracken said, "because professionally I'm at the bottom of the ladder. It's as important to me that I'm successful as a lawyer as I am on the rugby field. Having recently left university I know my reputation as a player does not give me a head start in the legal profession. I had to miss England's tour to South Africa because of my exams and I know it won't be the last time I'm faced with a choice between my sport and my career."

David Powell, a partner at Alsters and a former Bristol player, said: "I understand probably more than the average employer how important a strong sporting pedigree can be in business. However, Alsters has employed a very bright, young lawyer and not a bright, young rugby player."

Bracken, who is with the company's property department, rises at 7.30am, is at his desk by 8.30 and usually leaves the office at 5.30. In between he could be proof-reading new company documentation, researching equitable easements and their application to a specific file on behalf of a partner or visiting with a client a site earmarked for development.

During the last season, his week ran like this: on Monday evenings he trained with Bristol from 6.30-9.45pm; on Tuesday lunchtimes he went circuit training and in the evening put in an hour of individual skills training; on Wednesday evenings club training from 6.30-9pm; on Thursday lunchtimes he was back in the gym for more circuit training and in the evening it was sprint training; on Friday evening, after working a 50-hour week, more skills training. After supper, invariably pasta, he was usually in bed by 11.30. Saturday was match day.

The only difference between Bracken and Brian Moore is that the 33-year- old hooker is at the end of his rugby career. That and the fact that Moore is bringing out a book. He will retire in June after the World Cup and the life of Brian will change. "The conflicting and ever increasing demands of international and league rugby and those of a responsible professional career are now impossible for me to reconcile," Moore said. "On top of that there are other interests I want to pursue but which I've had to neglect for a long time."

Moore, a commercial litigation partner with Edward Lewis & Co in London, had difficulty synchronising diaries with his wife - a doctor - and became, on the question of amateurism, one of the Rugby Football Union's prime antagonists. Moore wanted to be able to cash in. "The argument that if you don't want to play for England you don't have to is disingenuous," Moore said. "You have to be a lot fitter. It is no longer an option. You're compelled to do the work. You can't just do what the old guard did. I'm not one who puts training down as a hobby."

When Bleddyn Williams, the Cardiff and Wales centre, toured New Zealand with the Lions in 1950 he was given two ties and a badge. The badge had to be sewn on to a blazer which he had to buy. Before travelling by boat - the tour lasted six months and took in 32 matches - each player had to give the four home unions a pounds 50 bond. If anybody was guilty of misbehaviour the money, a considerable sum then, would be forfeited.

The All Blacks won a close series and the Lions' eyes were opened to something new. Their opponents were coached. "We just took care of ourselves," Williams said. "Karl Mullen [the captain] looked after the forwards and I organised the backs." The Lions received an allowance of pounds 2 10s a week and had to pay for any phone calls home. Jack Matthews, a Cardiff doctor, had to pay a locum to deputise for him while he was on tour.

Williams was a prodigy who played for the Cardiff second XV in 1939 when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy. Known as the "Prince of Centres" - sidestep, swerve, pace, you name it he had it - he was in his prime between 1945 and 1955, winning 22 caps. After serving in the RAF and playing for the Combined Services, he became a sales manager. "There was no remuneration in rugby at all," he said. "If you played for your country you trained twice a week but there was nothing particularly organised. We used to meet for a couple of hours on a Friday, go home and return to the ground on Saturday for the match. We didn't even meet for lunch.

"If the game was at the Arms Park I was lucky because I lived in Cardiff but others would have to travel from the valleys, go home, and come back again the following day. If it was cheaper they'd have to travel by bus rather than train. After the match we had tea and went home again. You had to buy your own kit. The only thing given to you was your jersey and that had to last for the season. I remember that, because of the shortages, I didn't get a jersey until 1948."

Williams now writes on rugby for the People. "I have no regrets. I'm not convinced I would enjoy playing today."