How Will Addison balanced study while being a professional athlete.

@WillAddisonB3 viaTwitter, @willaddisonb3 via instagram

Will the farmer from Cumbria in little village I like to call Addisonville because everyone who lives there is his relative. He prefers playing at Centre but can equally play as well on the wing and fullback. Featured in the 2012 Junior Rugby World Cup and Six Nations for England U20. The kid has all the skills that kill on attack and can throw his body into some big hits. He has that Brian O’Driscoll feel about him and leadership skills were exceptional that led him to Captain Sale Sharks for 2017/2018 season.  He is a graduate of Manchester University while juggling how he would start his professional rugby career.

I got along with Will from the get go. He always made time to say hello to my wife and played with my kids, invited us all to visit his farm to have lunch with his family. You can see why he is such a nice person, it runs through his family. 

Will has recently announced that he will be leaving Sale Sharks for Ulster Rugby, to start his new quest to represent his mother’s heritage in Ireland. He leaves the club he grew up supporting and played 114 games for, if it wasn’t for a few injuries he would be closer to 200 caps. His presence will be missed at the club but I’m looking forward to watching him rip up the Pro 14.

Will’s insight of Injuries and studying while being a professional athlete would benefit current and future professional players.


Over your time you have been at Sale you have had a few injuries, what challenges did you face with them?

Injuries really are a bugger. There aren’t many downsides to being paid to do something you love, but injuries are definitely the one that stands out for me.

I have had my fair share, but I really believe that I wouldn’t be the player I am today without having had those bumps in the road.

I think you encounter challenges both physically and mentally when it comes to injury. For me the mental strain and pain of time off with injury far exceeds the physical pain.


How did you cope with them?

 With every injury I’ve had the initial reaction is always one of immense disappointment, verging on anger. I think it’s important to go through these emotions and get it out of your system. After you’ve indulged in a nice bit of self pity its time to get to work.

I’ve always tried to take every injury as an opportunity to get better both on and off the pitch. Whether this was putting more time into my degree or more recently really spending time researching and discovering more about the injury so I can really feel in control of where my recovery goes.

I’ve also been lucky to work with some fantastic physios, players and coaches who have shared my passion for self-improvement. I think this has really helped me mentally deal with injuries. Challenging myself both physically and mentally to improve has made me so much more mentally tough than if I had not experienced these set backs


will grad

What did you study and how long did it take?

 I studied Business Studies at the University of Manchester. The degree took four years to complete as I took a sabbatical year between the first and second semester of my 2nd year. I had to do this to avoid missing my exams in June as I was selected to play for England u20s in the World Cup in South Africa. It was a full time degree, which although was at times hellish to balance, it was also extremely rewarding.


Give us a rough outline of your training and study week?

 The balance of my week really varied throughout my degree. Typically Rugby was my priority, this meant trying to fit my lectures around training and the odd coffee with the boys. As a result when Rugby was going well my attendance was at best mixed, but with the injuries I experienced I could sometimes shift some more focus to study.

Where possible I tried to pick modules at University that were not only enjoyable and useful but also ones that tended to have lectures in the afternoon or on my likely days off. However, even with this effort my attendance wasn’t great to say the least. As a result I would try my hardest to catch up online in the evenings and rely on my mates at University to stop me falling too far behind.

The offseason was always a little manic, as fortunately it would normally land when my exams took place. This meant missing the odd lads holiday in favour of the classic cram to try and learn my years curriculum in the space of a few weeks… not fun.


How did you manage to study and be a professional rugby player? 

I would definitely say I graduated with my degree more through gritty determination than any great level of academic intellect. However, as is the case with Rugby, this determination was aided and motivated by having a clear goal. This was especially true in the 3rd and final year of my degree. I can remember having a clear image in my mind of graduation day and the feeling I would have enjoying the day with my family. This really helped spur me on in the dark days of cramming and completing my dissertation.


What challenges came with it?

 There were a number of challenges not only with finding a way of balancing life as a professional athlete but also as a student. One of the more frustrating challenges came with dealing with different lecturers. Some were extremely helpful in understanding the challenges I was going through in managing this balance. However, there were those stubborn few who didn’t appreciate I was effectively working full time as well as studying. In a couple of subjects I was docked 10% of my marks for missing lectures.


Looking back at it would you have done anything differences?

 I certainly became better at managing my time as I progressed in my degree, but by no means was I perfect. I think I’d have made time each week to goal set so I could prioritise my time keep on top of my workload, at times this became a little overwhelming.

Other than that I think I sometimes didn’t allow myself time to enjoy Uni as much as I could have. So potentially I would have joined a few more societies and enjoyed the social side of Uni a little more. However, looking back I think I really did have the best of both worlds … Oh maybe I’d have read a touch more.


What advice can you give young people out there about the balance?

 Similar to the last question, I now make a real effort to goal set and set out a to do list at the start of every week. I think this helps me both on and off the pitch. Whether that’s setting aside a bit of time to work hand-eye coordination or making sure I get through my admin on a day off. I think goal setting is key to both achieving and enjoying success. 


Do you have a plan for life after rugby?

 At this moment, I can’t say I have a concrete plan for my post Rugby career. I do make sure that I try to take advantage of any opportunity that Professional Rugby throws my way. I think by doing this and trying to experience as much as I can, it stands me in good stead for whatever avenue I eventually chose.

I come from a farming background so I am starting to really enjoy that side of life, but I need to invest more time into educate myself a little more to help. The extra interest will hopefully help cultivate the passion you need to take this on, as at times it’s a brutal profession.

I really take a vested interest in improving my performance. I love listening to podcasts and researching people like Pep Guardiola to understand how people at the top of their field operate. I would love to have a business one day where I could take advantage of this passion for maximizing potential, particularly in the sports world.

Other than that, Josh Beaumont and I love to pop for a coffee and try and come up with our Million dollar idea, some aren’t great but fingers crossed we strike gold soon.



Will Addison best XV of players he has played with

1.    Ross Harrison – I think every team needs a sprinkle of insanity, and this guy has it in spades. Along with the random shrieks he produces, comes an unrivaled work ethic that is truly infectious. A self made man who has a huge future. 

2.    Tommy Taylor – A second 7 on the pitch who also chucks some lovey darts. I’ve always loved playing with guys who have plenty of dog in them. Marc Jones would be your rabid Bulldog from the Valleys but coming from the finer side of Cheshire, Tommy is more of a well groomed Retriever. Both are top players, as well as two of this man’s best friends (you like that dog analogy I used there?)!

3.    Vadim Cobilas – Hits like a hammer, offloads like Serevi and does it all for 80 mins week in, week out. The King of Moldova was pure class. Pips my old mucker Henry Thomas, hampered my injuries but I’d be as happy picking him at 10 as I would having him pack down at 3.

4.   James Gaskell – A toss up between Jamma and Tom Holmes. Both top blokes hailing from the fine stable that is Sandbach. One, a true workhorse, the other a touch of a show pony. I’ve opted for the pony, but that would be underselling him totally. A real athlete with great skills. He’s learning to love the nitty gritty as much he thrives in the wide channels. Unfortunately another unlucky bugger with injury.

5.    Nathan Hines – A top bloke; uber professional, tough as old boots. He was like Sale’s Professor Snape in his time at the club, giving all us young guys a real education in rugby’s dark arts.

6.   Josh Beaumont – Picking the big man slightly out of position, though he’s blessed with both athleticism and an impressive skillset which make him a massive asset across the back 5, perhaps even the wing!! He hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential yet and once his body allows it…you’d best look out!!

7.    Dan Braid – As a big Star Wars fan I’d compare Braido to a Jedi master, with his unrivalled autonomy over the breakdown and ability to brain wash referees into his own line of thinking. All to reminiscent of Obi Wan Kenobi sneaking his way into the Cantina Bar.

8.   Billy Vunipola – The way Sarries use Billy and his brother in tandem can at times be terrifying! Almost the complete player and a real talisman for club and country. 

9.    Chris Cusiter – This is probably the hardest to chose, having played with some of the true greats of the position; Peely, Strings, Cliffo, Phillsy. However, with Peelo now being my new boss at Ulster it would smack of teachers pet if I chose him.

This isn’t to take anything away from the all round excellence of Cus! Although elements of those guys game may edge his, I think that considering his all encompassing quality, Cus edges it. Tons of thrills, very little spills, plus he can source you the finest of Scottish Whiskeys.

10.  Danny Cipriani – A flamboyant foil to Cus’ consistency. Cips has all the skills and more, but he developed the ability to manage and lead a team during his time at Sale. His signing could really bring Gloucester back to their best.

11.  Elliot Daly – I always like having a third midfielder on the wing and his left boot adds another dimension to a team’s attack. He really oozes class, as dangerous on the pitch as he is behind the wheel. In the same vein I love having an intelligent player on the wing who gets involved across the attack and makes smart decisions in D, so Byron McGuigan is only just ousted by El.

12.  Sammy Tuitupou – Wow what a bloke! The heartbeat of the rugby club, both on and off the pitch and without doubt the hardest guy I’ve played with. Underrated skill set, but his ability to strike fear into the opposition with his shoulders of steel could almost win you a game before the whistle. Plus his ‘interesting’ visa issues helped give me my big break in the firsts.

13. Johnny Leota – How could I not? Jiggy was a legend from the word go. The midfield is all about having a sixth sense, an element of telepathy with your partner in crime. His partnership with Sammy T was feared throughout the land. Always tricked you into thinking the Samoan bump was coming but then…pow a Benji Marshall esque step and he was gone. Whakatane brother!

14.  Denny Solomona – After he and Byron jibbed out of our team social the other week I’m very conflicted to pick this reprobate! But, I’ve found few things in life hold back talent. Despite his absence, Denny’s a good lad and skyving an all dayer on the beers may well be in his rig’s best interest. Deej has an unbelievable knack of finishing tries in the most exuberant, death defying manner! Plus he’s just discovering what an intelligent player he actually is. No doubt he will play some minutes in the midfield at some stage.

15.    Mike Haley – Like Marvel’s Hulk “don’t make him angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry”. Former housemates will know what I mean there. However, Angry Mike is a hell of a player! Full to the brim of raw talent, I’m very excited to watch him fulfill his potential in Limerick. I’m spoilt for choice at fullback with quality like Robby Miller, Joquain Tuculet and my wise cracking Ozzie mate Cameron Shepherd just missing out. 


Will prediction for winners in 2017/2018 season.

 Premiership: Saracens

Pro14: Leinster

Top14: Montpellier

Super Rugby: Crusaders

Thanks Will for taking the time to share your views with Rugby Yarns. All the best for the up and coming season with Ulster.



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