Britain’s oldest rugby player vows to keep playing into his 80s

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Instead of thinking about putting on his slippers and relaxing on a Saturday afternoon, one 75-year-old has his eye firmly on the ball. Brian Sampson believes he must be Britain’s oldest rugby player and has vowed to carry on scoring tries well into his 80s.

The sprightly septuagenarian still turns out for his local team every Saturday despite being three times the age of most of his playing pals.

The father-of-two, who has one granddaughter, has played for 56 seasons and still plays regularly for Oakham RFC 2nd team.

He made his debut for the first team in 1966 after coming through the ranks of the juniors before breaking into the senior squad.

Since then Brian has played approximately 1,960 games and says his secret to keeping match fit is downing a pint of orange squash mixed with an energy drink.

He used to play full-back and now supports the scrum in the second row for the Leicestershire team.

Mr Sampson said: “Some people think it’s a bit weird me still playing but I love it and it keeps me young.

“What I might lack in pace I make up with in experience and reading the game. I still love playing as much now as I did when I was younger.

He added: “Sometimes we get a new player coming in and they’ll ask, ‘how old is that bloke, he’s older than my grandad and he can’t walk’. But they are getting used to it now.

“I’ve probably played more games than any other player on the team this season, believe it or not.”

Mr Sampson played rugby for the first time at junior school.

He then moved to Leicestershire to pursue a career in agriculture and while at college in 1965, he joined the Leicester Tigers as a full-back.

He stayed at the club and was their top points scorer for four seasons and represented them at Second and Third XV level.

Following this, a new job with a tractor company took him to Harrogate, where he became a mainstay of the First XV.

He then went overseas to Nigeria for farming work and spent 12 years in Africa, where he continued to play rugby in his spare time.

In the late 1980s, Brian returned to the UK to play for Oakham RFC and hasn’t missed a season since.

Brian, who lives less than a mile away from the club, said: “When I started out for the Tigers, in those days you could just rock up.

“I wrote to the Tigers and said I’d like to play, and they invited me to come down.

“You were training with the first team, and they had internationals in the front row.

“At 17 I could be propping against the first team prop in the scrum, so I learned how to manage.

“You were mostly just lying up against them, but now and again they might feel like messing you up.”

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Brian continued to play for the Oakham first team until he turned 60 and now plays for Oakham’s second team.

Despite his age, Mr Sampson says he still feels the competitive juices flowing, even when his team are losing.

He added: “If we are losing by 50 points, I just keep on playing as I would if we were winning.

“One of the players told me they worry about winning or losing, and then they look at me and I’m just playing as I normally do.”

He is now semi-retired and keeps himself busy with his small holding and installing solar panel business during the week.

In 2018, Brian was awarded a lifetime achievement award from Leicestershire Rugby Union, and at 75, he said he is still learning new tricks.

He added: “I’ve cracked a bone now and again, but the work that I do keeps me fit. I’ve done some research on old players and I’m pretty sure I must be the oldest.”
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