My Passion: Sporting injury converted me to a new career

I grew up marvelling at the exploits of the great Welsh rugby sides of the '70s and wanted to follow in their footsteps, but coming from a football-dominated area of North Wales, it proved quite difficult. There were no junior sides in the locality.

Undeterred, I trained with the adults at my local club and travelled over the "border", to England, to play junior rugby at Birkenhead Park. Also, with the help of a female member of staff, Enid Williams (to whom I am indebted), I started a school team.

Having played my first game of rugby when I was 13, at 15 I was selected for Welsh schoolboys to play Scotland.

I will never forget the thrill (and shock) of pulling on a Welsh shirt for the first time, playing in front of a large crowd and seeing my name in a programme. I decided to pursue it at the cost of just about everything else.

I played through the Welsh age-groups and Under-21s while based in North Wales, and then joined Swansea Cricket and Football Club, where I was lucky to play for 10 years with some of the best talent in the game.

Some, like Colin Charvis and Kevin Morgan, are still playing. Others, such as Stuart Davies and Scott Gibbs, have forged new careers in the media.

It was remarkable as Swansea had packed me off after my first training session with them two years earlier on account of not being big enough to play in their front row.

Within a month, I was playing for the club against Wayne Shelford's All Blacks, live on tv. Ironically, current Welsh coach Warren Gatland was playing for New Zealand that day.

It felt like one day I was helping to clear sheep off the pitch at a club in North Wales before kick-off, and the next I was surrounded by British Lions and internationals.

I made my Welsh debut on tour with legendary players like Neil Jenkins, Phil Davies and Ieuan Evans, and was a member of the 1995 World Cup when I severed a hamstring playing against Cardiff in a Welsh league game at the Arms Park.

I was out for 14 months, and although I made a brief reappearance for Wales on the tour to North America in 1997, any real international aspirations were over.

The recovery and rehabilitation from a serious injury, in what was probably the prime of my career, was an important experience as it paved the way for my career as a solicitor. There being no guarantees that I would be able to join in with the newly professionalised union game post-1996, I decided to go "back to school". Although I did play professionally for a time with Swansea, London Welsh and Wales, I combined it with legal studies.

In many ways, I was deeply entrenched in the amateur game, when you combined sport with career.

The only tangible difference I could see between amateurs and professionals was that as professionals we trained more and paid tax and NI on the money we earned – and some of us were worse off as a result!

Ian Buckett, a former Welsh rugby union international, is now a solicitor in the Commercial Property department at Leeds integrated commercial law firm, Lupton Fawcett.