Vickerman’s travels have shrunk and his opponents expanded

Rob Vickerman
Rob Vickerman
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Having travelled the world with England Sevens, Rob Vickerman is loving life back closer to home with promotion-chasing Leeds Carnegie. Dave Craven talks to the centre on his Yorkshire return.

ACCORDING to AA Route Planner, the distance from Headingley to Plymouth is 324.3 miles and the journey should take five hours and 39 minutes.

It is certainly a decent trek for Leeds Carnegie as they head down to Devon today in preparation for tomorrow’s Championship contest.

However, for one player, that trip will almost feel like a mere walk to the end of the street.

Rob Vickerman has spent the last two and a half years as a full-time member of an England Sevens squad that has regularly travelled the world.

Playing in such cities as Las Vegas, New York and Tokyo, he has also represented his country at tournaments in Dubai, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

Undoubtedly, Vickerman – who has returned to the 15-man game for a second spell with Leeds – is not averse to clocking up miles.

“When we were travelling we did some legs that were 38 hours from leaving the hotel to walking in through my front door,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“And, the thing was, always when I got back to London I’d still be five hours from home (in Beverley). So, a trip to Plymouth doesn’t sound too bad at all.”

As far as odysseys go, the strong-running centre has unquestionably enjoyed a colourful one since first making his England Sevens debut back in 2004 – a year before making his professional bow for Leeds – scoring with his first touch against Canada in Paris.

Vickerman, who went on to contribute 26 tries in 29 IRB World Series events and captained England at the Sevens World Cup in Russia last year, had, however, been keen to return to his first love.

He had been on the global tour since leaving Newcastle Falcons at the end of 2010-11 and was itching to get back to the weekly camaraderie of club football.

Vickerman signed an 18-month contract with Leeds and, fully eight years after first appearing with them, came off the bench in the final quarter of Saturday’s 30-19 win over Nottingham.

The obvious question is did he find it all a bit claustrophobic out there, so many players suddenly cluttering up the pitch?

“Very much so, yes, and not only with the amount of men out there but the size of them as well,” explained the player, who graduated from Leeds’s revered Academy after starting out at Hull RUFC.

“They’re formidable. I know our team are big but Nottingham were probably a little bit bigger and we’re talking about men that are 19 or 20 stone running pretty hard at you. It’s no easy trek.

“A big man in sevens would be about 17 stone and he won’t run for very long. Fair play to these guys as the game’s changed a lot.”

Having helped Leeds win promotion in 2009 before moving to Newcastle, the 28-year-old, firmly believes they can realise that aim again.

They sit fourth but, seeking a sixth successive win tomorrow, are just four points behind leaders Bristol with a game in hand. Vickerman, who scored 12 tries in 53 games during his first spell, is looking for a longer taste of action tomorrow.

On his return, he recalled: “It was frantic. Obviously, I’m just getting back into it. I’d been learning the calls over the past week, had two training sessions and was really appreciative of my chance against Nottingham.

“I was a little disappointed with how I went, but it was one of those games where it was hard to get into. It was a great team display, though, and the first half showed what this side is capable of.”

Leeds ran riot playing some sublime football as they opened up a 20-0 interval advantage.

They are without captain Jacob Rowan tomorrow after he suffered a nasty concussion early in the Nottingham game and have also lost second-row Calum Clark to a pectoral injury.

However, Leeds have signed Harry Casson on loan from Worcester Warriors until the end of the season with the 22-year-old lock due to debut off the bench.

Worcester colleague Jon Clarke, who joined in a similar deal before Christmas, will also make his bow while Vickerman is promoted to the starting line-up.