Lecturer scores lead physio role for England Students' Rugby team

Lecturer scores lead physio role for England Students' Rugby team name

A University of Cumbria physiotherapy lecturer has scored the job of his dreams as he learns he has been made lead physiotherapist for the England Students’ Rugby Union team.

Stephen Rowell, 36, from Bishop Auckland, applied for the role after working as an Instructor on the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) pitch-side immediate care course, never imagining to get it after an competitive process.

The England Students’ team identifies and assists the development of the best university and college-based rugby players in the UK. In turn, it gives student players the unparalleled opportunity to play rugby at international level.

As lead physiotherapist, it will be Stephen’s job to ensure the team are on top form for their upcoming tour and that they have access to the right equipment.

The England team will take on their French counterparts twice as part of a 10-day tour.

The first fixture in his new role sees the England Universities’ team take on their equivalents from France on the 14 April, at Chester RUFC.  Following this the team then travel to France for the second fixture at the Stade Gilbert Santiago in Barbizeux on the 19 April.

However, this is not Stephen’s first taste of the sport; he has played both Rugby Union and Rugby League at amateur level. After completing a BSc in sport and exercise science, he even moved to live and play rugby in Italy, only giving up to pursue a career as a physiotherapist.

Upon achieving a master’s qualification in physiotherapy at the University of Teesside, he worked for the NHS before returning to his roots, providing physiotherapy expertise to Hull FC in the Super League and later Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club.  

Stephen worked full-time in professional rugby for four years before swapping the high-pressure, time-consuming roles that regularly saw him work over a 70 hour week, for an academic career at the University of Cumbria.

He now feels he has more of a work/life balance and experiences the best of both worlds, combining his love of sport, teaching and research while allowing him more time with his family.  

Stephen still provides physiotherapy support to Cumbrian based Newcastle Falcons Academy players, who train in Kendal, and coaches his son’s rugby team.

Stephen said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity being able to develop my physiotherapy expertise at an elite level.

“Opportunities as a physiotherapist in the world of elite international sport don’t come up very often and so  I am hugely grateful for the support of my managers for seeing this as a great chance and supporting me on this adventure.”

Stephen’s role will not only benefit his development but that of his students on the MSc Physiotherapy course, as he plans to take some of them on the UK leg of tour with him, providing them with hard-to-come-by industry experience.

Stephen’s role is to work with the team over a two-year period and offers other development opportunities within the role. The whole support team including physiotherapists, doctors, analysts, coaches and managers are professionally developed with the view of them taking their learning experiences back to the amateur game.

In the future, Stephen plans to develop his own PhD in the area of musculoskeletal research in rugby union, focusing on players landing mechanics, injury prevention and performance maximisation. 

For anyone interested in becoming a physiotherapist, please visit the University of Cumbria’s website.