The Rugby Business Network Podcast

This global network was set up in 2010 with a vision of building a community that connects rugby, business and charity. Today our network has more than 38,000 members attending our events in more than 60 cities around the world, helping and inspiring each other.

Over the last seven years we have built what has now become the world’s biggest and most influential network for senior business people with a passion for rugby. It is now time that we extend this opportunity beyond our organisers and members so that the whole world can benefit from these motivational stories, experiences and advice.

We bring you The Rugby Business Network Podcast.


Atlas – Putting Rugby charity work on the map

The Atlas Foundation, which is a one of a kind Rugby charity founded by former England international Jason Leonard, may only be 2-year-old but is already tackling poverty in a massive way.

The Foundation’s CEO, Sally Pettipher, explains that Atlas raises money to support initiatives and people, especially children, in the poorest parts of the world.

Sally speaks about a touching moment she witnessed while providing support in Kenya, the personal relationships they have formed with their handful of donors, as well as upcoming events that businesses and individuals can get involved with to add to the £200,000 in funds already spent on disadvantaged communities across the globe.

A Rugby career lost, everything else ‘gained’

A professional Rugby career being cut short by an injury is part of the game and former Wallabies prop Ben Darwin knows this from personal experience. A life threatening neck injury sustained in a scrum against New Zealand during the semi-finals of the 2003 Rugby World Cup forced Ben into early retirement. It however was only 2 years after the incident that reality hit Ben that his international playing days were over and moving on was a challenge.

Ben made the obvious decision to transition into coaching, where he was part of Australia’s Super Rugby franchise teams the Western Force and the Rebels and had coaching stints in Japan. Ben surprisingly admits that he was not ready to coach at that level and in retrospect “should have taken a longer apprenticeship” before jumping into coaching.

After being let go as coach at Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath, it forced Ben once again to reevaluate his life and a career in sports data analysis sparked an interest, which led to the creation of Gain Line Analytics.

Ben is the Director at the operations and management consultancy founded in 2013, which has a unique perspective on success in professional sports. Gain Line not only works with Rugby teams, but also has clients in Soccer, AFL, Ice Hockey and generally any sport that uses teamwork. Interestingly Ben says Gain Line uses data from NASA, Harvard Business School and Armies and applies it to sport.

Ben advises retiring professional Rugby players to take their time in deciding what career path to follow, as “the key is to focus on what you enjoy and you will eventually be able to build a business out of it”.
From an analytical perspective, Ben also gives his predictions for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

Rugby a hot property in the Retail Business

The Real Estate business is in the DNA of UK Managing Director at CBRE Ltd, Ciaran Bird, as from a teenager he was working as a retail agent while also playing Rugby as a professional at London Irish.

Ciaran feels strongly about Rugby players putting plans in place for their future long before they retire, but understands the difficulties involved, as he explains how he structured his agreement at London Irish in order to work and play at the club.

“If you trust and work with each other as a team over a period you will see the benefits” is a lesson Ciaran has taken from playing Rugby and incorporated into the work environment at CBRE (, where former England coach Clive Woodward has provided his skills and services at the company in the past.

Ciaran offers valuable advice for retiring professional Rugby players looking to transition into business and Real Estate, saying they need to be willing to start from the bottom and work their way up in order to learn the trade, instead of expecting to receive the same sort of treatment and salary they were once earning from playing Rugby.

CBRE is also an official supporter to England Rugby and is the principal partner of the All Schools Rugby program in the United Kingdom, which Ciaran admits is a rewarding experience in being able to instill the values of sport through Rugby for children at under privileged schools. Ciaran encourages other business to get involved in Rugby and form mutually beneficial relationships on and off the field.

Not only players in professional Rugby teams need to transition

It is not only professional Rugby players who need to plan ahead and at times ask for assistance when the moment arrives for retirement. This can also be the case for Rugby coaches, as recently experienced by former Defence Coach at London Welsh, Richard Tonkin.

Having started out as a Performance Analyst at London Wasps, Richard went on to perform the same job at London Welsh, before the opportunity arrived in 2016 to get involved in the coaching of the players, which he says was a smooth transition between the two roles.

However, Richard’s time as a Defence Coach was short lived, as the club was liquidated and removed from English Rugby’s professional ranks. Richard admits that this unsettling moment had an influence on him seeking greener pastures in the business environment, while “the lack of stability” and “limited opportunities” in coaching roles in the English Premiership also played its part in his move away from Rugby.

At the beginning of 2017 Richard sought assistance from The Rugby Business Network and through the Life After Rugby program, he began working as a Consultant at leading professional recruitment agency, Michael Page back in March. Richard explains how the program helped place him in a business, which complimented his traits and skills.

The team environment in Rugby and business have far more similarities than differences as experienced firsthand by Richard, as being “driven, motivated and competitive” applies to both settings.

Richard also gives some advice to other coaches looking to transition into business, insisting that being proactive and looking for opportunities to network is fundamental.



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