SPORTSMAN Ed Carne admits an unexpected run-out for Luctonians Colts has led to a professional rugby career in Italy and France.

The former Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School pupil was a keen footballer during his youth and played for both Westfields and Pegasus Juniors.

But a night-out in Hereford - and a conversation with old school-friend Tom Brett - changed Ed’s sporting direction.

“I had been on the bench that afternoon for Pegasus Juniors and I bumped into Tom at Play nightclub,” recalled Ed. “He told me they were one player short the next day for Luctonians Colts.

“He asked me if I fancied a run around on the wing with them. I said yes and I went up to Luctonians and I really enjoyed it.

“I was 17 and I was only there to make up the numbers. I hardly saw the ball.

“But I enjoyed it and I later telephoned the coach at Pegasus to thank him and to tell him that I wouldn’t be coming back.”

Ed, 26, has since played rugby for Redruth in Cornwall, St Patrick’s in Sydney and Pro-Recco Rugby in Italy.

The ex-Hereford Sixth Form College student now lives in the Burgundy region of France and is in his fourth season at Union Sportive Olympique Nivernaise.

The Herefordshire lad is a full-time professional in Federal One - the third tier of French rugby.

“Rugby is a much bigger sport in France than it is in England,” said Ed, who has also played a match in Vierzon, Hereford’s French twin-town.

“The French are passionate about their rugby - it’s the national sport in France.

“Rugby in France is like football is in England. We are well supported and get 5,000 fans to our home matches in a town of 45,000 people.

“There are players who have played in the Premiership in England and they say they earn more here than they did in England.”

Ed grew up in Madley and his parents, Stella and George, live in Eaton Bishop.

He enjoyed most sports in his youth and gained county representative honours with Herefordshire at rugby, football and cricket.

Ed finished off his maiden season at Luctonians Rugby Club and then played the next.

His dad’s family is from Cornwall and he wanted to head down south.

“Stewart Jardine put me in touch with a teacher at Redruth School, who then put me in touch with Redruth Rugby Club,” he recalled.

“I was still very new to rugby but I had a semi-professional contract.

“After my second season there, I spoke to the club about wanting to go to Australia and I ended up playing Grade One rugby with St Patrick’s in Sydney.”

Ed’s ability was spotted and, after returning to Cornwall, he was offered a full-time contract with a club in Italy.

“I said yes to the Italian offer. I didn’t know anything about the club or where it was and I started playing at Pro Recco Rugby in Serie ‘A’.

“In Italy, I did get a bit homesick,” said Ed, whose 30-year-old brother Peter, teaches English in Milan.

“I was the only English guy in the team and it was hard getting home after training and not having spoken English the whole day.”

After one season in Italy, Ed was offered a full-time deal in France. He jumped at the chance.

“We have an English lad in the team, a Welshman, four Fijians and a New Zealander and I am loving the life in France,” he said.

“We’ve had some excellent matches but I’ve had my fair share of injuries this season. “I hurt my calf and came back and played 20 minutes but got knocked out and had three weeks off.”

He is out of contract with the club this summer.

“At the moment, I am considering the next step in my life,” said Ed, whose girlfriend, Lucy Collins, is originally from Ewyas Harold and now teaches in London. “I will probably end up doing something practical. “I have finished a diploma in personal training and I am an assistant instructor in windsurfing.

“I am a huge rugby league fan - and there’s a new team in Gloucestershire who play in Championship One.

“When I lived in Sydney, rugby league was huge and I went to watch matches every week. There are a few avenues for me.”

Ed was back in Herefordshire over Christmas and returns to the county as often as he can.

“I went to a couple of pre-season training sessions with Ewyas Harold Football Club and I also play cricket for Moccas Cricket Club,” he said.

“I am a country-boy at heart and, if I were to return to Britain, I would like to live in Herefordshire or Cornwall.

“I don’t have any regrets about playing professional rugby. At school, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that I’d be playing professional rugby.”