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News > Sports > Ben Ransom on life after rugby

Ben Ransom on life after rugby

The former Saracens and London Irish back Ben Ransom (OH 05-10) is ready to trade in a career on the field for one in the City
6 Dec 2018
The following article was published in The Telegraph, 5 December 2018.

The 2011 Junior World Championship final, which ended in a 33-22 victory for New Zealand Under-20 over England, was impressive enough at the time. Since then, it has been even more fascinating to follow the progress of the 44 players across both squads.

As of now, 26 of them have made Test debuts, and not just for the nations they were representing. Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe wore 10 for the Baby Blacks that day. Brad Shields was in New Zealand’s back row.

England scrum-half Dan Robson will surely add to the 26 soon. Ryan Mills might do. Sam Jones would have done but for that judo injury. Other sporting stories punctuate the team-sheets, too – Christian Wade and Alex Gray have opted for American football over rugby.

Ben Ransom’s opposite number seven-and-a-half years ago was Beauden Barrett, who with Brodie Retallick is one of two 2011 graduates to win the World Player of the Year award. On Thursday at Twickenham, Ransom will notch another notable achievement as he becomes the first Blue from this prestigious group.

“I guess we can add that to the list,” says Ransom, Oxford University’s full-back. “Someone brought this up the other day before England and New Zealand played. Looking back, it’s still disappointing that we lost it... it would have been great to have won.

“But to come through with those guys was a great privilege, not just the ones that played for England but for New Zealand as well – and South Africa have had players go on to play first team. Now they’re flourishing.”

Speaking to the assured Ransom leaves you convinced he will succeed as well, albeit in a different field. At the start of 2018, then with London Irish, he decided to apply for a masters in business administration to complement the first-class economics degree he earned while at Saracens.

Oxford offered a place in April, so Ransom opted for postgraduate study rather than the final year of his contract in the Championship. A summer off ended with Oxford’s pre-season tour to Madagascar. Modules in analytics, accounting, business finance and strategy have punctuated his first term. Two further electives await in January.

He has joined Oxford’s Saïd Finance Lab and the Oxford Strategy Group, a student-led consultancy programme, in a bid to ready himself for a career in investment banking. Life after rugby, and self-improvement off the pitch, was rarely far from his thinking.

“I think over the last few years it’s something that has been at the forefront of rugby players’ minds with the issue of concussion and injury-enforced retirements,” he explains. “The secondary issue was, ‘what are players doing outside of rugby and what is their transition after playing going to look like?’

“Some of the guys in the England squad will have earned a lot of money and may have a couple of years [to find another career]. The players just playing Premiership rugby will have to transition pretty quickly, especially if they have families.”

Ransom praises the Rugby Players’ Association. He stepped in as Saracens’ player representative whenever George Kruis was away and took on the same role at Irish. That provided an insight into the RPA’s support network but, as Ransom well knows, professional sport has a habit of changing the landscape with unforgiving speed.

A sit-down with Mark McCall in early 2016 – “a tough conversation that needed to be had so I could plan ahead” – underlined as much.
“You can be caught cold,” Ransom adds. “The clubs are essentially.... not in it for themselves, but they’re there to win games and provide squads that are going to win trophies for the owners.

“I came through the Saracens Academy from the age of 15, turned pro and had six years there. I didn’t really see myself leaving if things continued to go well. I obviously had Alex Goode ahead of me, so I wasn’t getting as much game-time as I wanted. But it came to the last year of my contract and I initially thought that it would just be extended. Then the realisation came that it wouldn’t. I was surplus to requirements.

“I didn’t have an agent at the time, so I had to get one in to help me find another club. Players need to be selfish sometimes. It’s their livelihood as well. You can get cut when they’re not expecting it. Injury can mean your contract is not renewed. Players just have to be aware that there is stuff outside of rugby to fall back on.”

There is no lingering bitterness towards Saracens. Ransom reflects on his time there, including contributions to domestic and European title-winning campaigns, as one where great friends and memories were forged. He brought a group of Oxford colleagues from the men’s and women’s teams to Allianz Park just last Friday.

They watched a training session and picked up a signed shirt that will help to raise funds for the Wooden Spoon charity for disabled and disadvantaged children. Ransom is running next year’s London Marathon for the same cause.

With centre and captain Dominic Waldouck and lock George Robson, lively runner Ransom is part of an experienced core looking to break Cambridge’s two-year hold on the Varsity Match. This year’s edition, the 137th, will be refereed by Nigel Owens.

“I can’t really answer as to what the feeling in the squad was or why they lost the game last year,” Ransom finishes. “But you can definitely sense the disappointment.

“It’s two years in a row that Oxford haven’t won and the performance last year wasn’t where they wanted it to be. This year we’ve made sure we’ll be firing on all cylinders on the day and that nothing is left to chance.”

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