September 10, 2019
An unusual gap year set the Gravesend-born fly-half on a path through the New Zealand rugby system and eventually a place in England’s squad in JapanA number of England’s squad have taken a long and winding road to the looming Rugby World Cup. Manu Tuilagi, Joe Cokanasiga and the Vunipolas all swapped the South Pacific for a new family life in Europe, while Ruaridh McConnochie rattled around the lower leagues and the sevens circuit for years before his electric form for Bath caught the eye of Eddie Jones.
From flat whites to All Blacks: how Piers Francis forged World Cup dream
No one, though, has taken a more unusual route than Piers Francis, whose journey to Japan via Old Gravesendians, Maidstone, Auckland under-21s, Edinburgh, Doncaster, Counties Manukau, the Blues and Northampton should act as motivation for gap-year travellers everywhere. Not that long ago Francis was working in Starbucks in Auckland’s busy Queen Street, playing a spot of club rugby between shifts. Any prospect of swapping flat whites for a white England World Cup jersey was a distinctly distant dream.
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