ON THE FRONT FOOT
Sussex Life|November 2020
The rugby legend took the reins at Sussex County Cricket Club in 2017, rekindling his love for a sport that first won his heart on the village cricket fields of North Yorkshire
Jeremy Blackmore

Rob Andrew is a legend of England rugby who won 71 caps for his country and was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. However, it is a lifelong love of another sport that brought him to Sussex.

He took over the reins as chief executive of Sussex County Cricket Club in 2017 after 35 years in rugby. This is far from his first association with the summer sport though. Brought up in the northeast, Rob’s early life was dominated by rugby and cricket running in tandem. Summers were spent on the school and village cricket fields of North Yorkshire and County Durham, while the winters saw him in action on the rugby pitch.

At Cambridge University he captained the cricket team in the Varsity Match at Lord’s. He scored a first-class century against Nottinghamshire and spent a season with the Yorkshire Second XI. All the while he turned out for Cambridge at rugby, representing them in rugby’s annual Varsity match at Twickenham.

“It’s always been a joint love and I’ve been very lucky to have had that throughout my life,” he says. “I have been very blessed to be involved in both sports at the level that I have. Cricket just felt like a natural progression when I came down to Sussex.”

His love affair with rugby began at Barnard Castle School where he would forge an enduring partnership with future England teammate Rory Underwood.

“Rory and I were in the same house, we were in the same year. We came together at the age of 11 in September 1974. My first rugby match was with Rory in the under12s against Durham School. The coach put Rory on the left wing and he put me at flyhalf and we stayed there ever since! That clearly had an enormous impact on what the rest of my life was going to be like.”

Rugby was still an amateur sport when Rob was called away from his university studies to make his England debut in January 1985 at Twickenham. His selection came on the back of a strong showing in the Varsity match the previous month.

“It was amazing. I was in my final year at university and I’m playing for England one minute, and in the college bar the next. It was a very different era. It’s probably difficult for people to really appreciate now.”

In 1987, Rob began an eight-year career playing at Wasps, juggling a career as a chartered surveyor with playing rugby for club and country. “Wasps were a great group of people, we had a good side. We were probably not the most fashionable at the time, but we were probably the top London side and we were knocking on the door of the Leicester and Bath dominance. We managed to win the league in 1990 and then we got to a couple of cup finals.”

Life as an amateur international sportsman with a full-time job was a demanding one and required a lot of hard work and sacrifice. After a day in the office, there was training two nights a week, club matches on Saturdays and further training with England on Sundays.

‘The very best professional players in any sport are the ones who would have been the best amateurs’

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