Just as he was settling into life at Northampton Saints, back rower Angus Scott-Young came very close to being awarded a place at one of the oldest universities in the world.
When he arrived at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens from Queensland Reds during the summer, the 25-year-old Australian straight away became one of the most academically-inclined members of Saints’ squad.
That is not simply because he possesses a dual undergraduate degree in Science and Commerce at the University of Queensland. Seeking a career in medicine after he left school, for four-and-a-half years, Scott-Young studied full-time for that degree while developing his rugby career – his course overlapped with two World Under-20s Championships while on duty with Australia.
His degree gave him a guaranteed spot in the university’s Master’s programme in medicine once he graduated in 2019, but even though it is an open spot, he still needed to study in the interim.
So, by the time he moved to England, Scott-Young was also halfway through a Master’s in Biotechnology (he has taken the most recent semester off while acclimatising himself to life in the East Midlands).
His academic achievements then encouraged him to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University – the oldest and one of the most prestigious international scholarship programmes in the world.
Earlier in the season, Scott-Young was permitted by Saints’ Director of Rugby Phil Dowson to fly back to his home country in order to be interviewed, having made the shortlist for the scholarship in Queensland.
Scott Young said: “It was a bit crazy, considering the scholarship I was up for is in Oxford. I had to fly 23 hours to Australia whereas Oxford is about an hour away from here.
“I always wanted to apply just to see where I got to, and I got shortlisted, which is quite cool, down to the final five candidates.”Angus Scott-Young
“So, I went back to Australia, did an interview at Government House [in Brisbane] with the Governor-General which was interesting – I was very nervous!
“I didn’t get it, but I actually know the girl who did from back in Brisbane. She’s really intelligent and I’m sure I’ll catch up with her when she comes over to study next year.”
An awareness of how quickly a rugby career can potentially be cut short is part of the reason Scott-Young has remained in further education, as he wanted to be left with plenty of options available to him when he does eventually call it a day from playing.
“My mum has always been telling me how important it is to have a degree, or have some sort of skill outside of rugby,” Scott-Young said.
“Looking at my father, he played professionally for a while and if you get an injury, that can be you done, so you need to have a back-up plan.”Angus Scott-Young
“I think it’s a good thing for people to have that, rugby players in particular, because it’s sometimes hard to lineate your work as a rugby player with your work as a human.
“If you have something else, it’s easy to bounce between the two and it’s good to have a mental break from rugby sometimes.”
While taking a break from his studies, Scott-Young has been getting his first taste of playing in the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup during his maiden season with Saints, and believes having his countrymen Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and James Ramm as fellow new boys for 2022/23 has helped his transition.
Scott-Young made the most of Saints’ bye week by spending Christmas in the Cotswolds with some family members and was thankful it was slightly warmer than during the cold snap that took hold of the country last month.
Looking back at his first experience of just how cold winter in England can get, Scott-Young said: “It took some adjusting to – in the first few days I was like ‘what is going on in this country?’
“I’m not used to the darkness as well, with the sun going down at 4pm. Rocking up to training when it’s dark and then leaving when it’s dark was more of a shock than the cold.”Angus Scott-Young
“But I’ve sort of acclimatised now – I’ve trained with about four or five layers of clothing on, but I haven’t been getting too cold. I just need to invest in some gloves because my hands are freezing these days!
“It did make me feel better when the boys were saying ‘this is ridiculously cold’ and not just the normal because I was a little bit worried for a moment.”
Now he has had a few months’ experience of playing in the northern hemisphere, Scott-Young is getting used to a different style of rugby than he had become used to with the Reds in Super Rugby, and with Bay of Plenty in New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship – winning Saints’ cinch Player of the Month award for November.
“Pretty much every week you know it’s going to be a physical battle up front,” he said. “When we played Harlequins away, the first ten minutes was us bashing into each other.
“It was an intense opening ten minutes, but every week is a new challenge and there’s no time for resting, to be honest, you’ve got to be 100 per cent every single week if you want to win.
“Playing in Super Rugby and playing in New Zealand, there is a physical element, but it’s highlighted over here more by playing to the conditions.
“The one thing that has really stood out for me is the physicality of the competition, but I’m loving it so far.”