At the age of only 24, Tommy Bell already has a rugby CV that reads like one of a journeyman pro.
The London Irish fullback has bounced between the top two flights of English rugby ever since making his startlingly early breakthrough all the way back in 2010 at Sale Sharks.
Spells in the Greene King IPA Championship with Yorkshire Carnegie, Jersey and latterly the Exiles have been intersected by leaps back to the top flight with Wasps and Leicester Tigers.
But two rounds into the new season Bell – who currently is the top points scorer in the Aviva Premiership – appears to be here to stay.
Long road to the top
The circuitous route to the top table of English rugby has made Bell the player that he is.
But while he may have had to get used to upping sticks and moving on in recent years, Bell’s carefree ‘no regrets’ philosophy seems to be paying off.
“I am loving my rugby at the moment – this is where I want to be – it has taken me a long time but this is a big season now for me personally,” he admits.
“There have been different circumstances that have meant I have moved a lot. When I was at Jersey I couldn’t turn down a move to Leicester for example. And that is a great club where I learned a lot.
“But I am the sort of player who wants to play, I have been used to moving around since I was a kid, I am always willing to take the risk.
“I don’t want to look back and have regrets, I think I have really benefited from all the clubs I have been to.
“Irish getting relegated was not ideal, but while last year with Irish rather than Tigers might look like a step back, I wasn’t quite getting a fair crack there.
“I have a good work-life balance now and am loving life down here. This is a great group of boys and the rugby has been going well, we have good coaches and a set-up so I feel settled now.”
Away for the gameWhile Bell has been something of the travelling salesman in the early part of his rugby career, that does not mean the youngster has failed to plan for the future.
He has already completed a leadership management degree in conjunction with the RPA – completed while still at Welford Road.
And he is currently undertaking an NVQ on property management with the online learning centre.
“I am not going to be playing rugby forever so I need to have a plan moving forward,” he added.
“I have enjoyed getting into stuff away from rugby, it is nice to have a distraction and not always have rugby on the brain.
“Having said that, I also am really getting into golf – so that has been keeping me busy as we have got a great group of lads who love a tee time.”
Exiles on the MarchIrish laid down a marker as the new boys in the top flight on the opening weekend with their victory over Harlequins at Twickenham.
Bell notched 24 points, including a try, in the victory and was named in David Flatman’s Aviva Premiership team of the week – and he stayed there for round two as the Exiles went down to defeat in Exeter.
And while Irish have signed some big names, like Napolioni Nalaga and Saia Fainga’a, the seeds for their survival – or so they hope – were actually sown last year in the Championship.
“We had to take a step back to go forwards, we wanted to make it more simple and went back to basics. To learn to walk and then run in the Championship,” he added.
What a week!! Thanks for all the support this season, now onto the prem next year pic.twitter.com/a7eUK22pc0— Tommy Bell (@_TommyBell) May 26, 2017
“We had a simple game plan, we were not as fluent at the start but the momentum built meant by the end of the season we really felt good – both mentally and physically. Those play-offs were what we had built up to.
“The Championship is very physical, there are a lot of big teams and big packs and in the backs there are a lot of very skilful players.
“But the difference in the Premiership is the speed of the game; those same skills are performed so much quicker so we have to be players capable of coping with that both physically and mentally.
“There is no doubt that this is going to be tough this year but we need to make sure we are getting the most out of ourselves all season.”