Kieran Brookes is the first to admit that he is a doppelganger for the UK music sensation Rag‘n’Bone Man.
But it is the world of acting, rather than pop music, that nearly turned the tighthead prop away from the oval ball game as a youngster.
6ft 2in in height and over 100kg in weight, Brookes’ unique body type meant that early in his career, he moonlighted as an actor on both Coronation Street and Shameless.
But as his rugby career took off, the England international has let his thespian tendencies slide.
The annual Christmas party at Northampton Saints still allows him to let his creative juices flow though.
But his meat and drink is scrummaging in the front row, and there are few better in the Aviva Premiership than the 16-cap England tighthead.
“I was about 16 or 17 and a friends’ dad got an email from an acting company asking if they knew any larger friends who could come and be an extra,” he admits.
“Without me knowing, they sent a picture in of me and I was perfect. It turned out to be Coronation Street.
“I was pushed over a wall and was abused on camera for a bit of money. They were impressed with my performance because I got a call to be on Shameless a couple of weeks after."I was pushed over a wall and was abused on camera for a bit of money."
“It was short-lived but something that was enjoyable at the time…it paid for my holiday in Magaluf as an 18-year-old.
“My mum watches Corrie, so she was quite happy to find me on TV.
“I have not done it since, it stopped and rugby took over but I went to drama school when I was younger and if the opportunity came again I would love to do something like that.
“I have been involved the last two years in the Saints’ nativities. The first year I was a pregnant Mary, I gave birth to Harry Mallinder in the closing scene.
“Last year I was the ghost of Christmas present. Ethan (Waller) used to write them but he has gone, I think Ben (Foden) should write one.”
Honing his craft down under
As a teenager, Brookes family upped sticks and moved to Australia, specifically Perth.
There, the now 27-year-old learned the hard way about what life at the scrummaging coalface was all about.
Although initially a hooker, Brookes is now firmly established in the Saints No.3 shirt but the skills in the loose he learned ‘Down Under’ have never left him."It was very fast-paced and taught me a lot of skills which I still use now."
“I was lucky enough when I was 13 that my parents decided to move to Australia for a couple of years,” he explained.
“My mum (Karen) was a nurse, my dad (John) a teacher so I went to school for a couple of years and made some good friends.
“We were in Perth and I played a different brand of rugby. The pitch I played on was right on the beach so that was different but very good.
“It was very fast-paced and taught me a lot of skills which I still use now.”
With 16 caps to his name for his country, Brookes is still very much on Eddie Jones’ radar.
But with the likes of British & Irish Lions Dan Cole and Kyle Sinckler in front of him in the tighthead pecking order, he has his work cut out – he has not been capped by England since the 2016 Six Nations and missed the summer tour to Argentina.
But after what he himself describes as a disappointing season last time out for Saints, Brookes has slimmed down for the new campaign and is keen to hit the ground running.
Last weekend’s defeat to Saracens at Twickenham has been put to bed, and next up Brookes will take on his former club Leicester Tigers in what, as early as round two, already looks like a huge East Midlands derby.
“To rectify the wrongs of last weekend would be huge for us. We can’t dwell on things too long, the league is too competitive for that,” he said, ahead of the clash at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
“It will be physical. We have thunderstorms forecast so it will be even more of an upfront battle. The scrum is going to be big, the speed of ball will be key and the mauls and line-outs are going to be huge.
“I was not happy with how I did last season and when things like that happen you rely on the more experienced teammates to help you focus on where you want to be.”