England rugby legend Jeremy Guscott on his life in Somerset
- Credit: submitted
English rugby is buzzing as the Six Nations Championship nears once again, so BERNARD BALE speaks to former Bath and England player Jeremy Guscott
Somerset star international Jeremy Guscott is as excited as ever as he prepares to commentate on the sport he played at the highest level.
"It is always an exciting time when the big internationals come round," says Jeremy, who is heralded as one of the greatest ball handlers the rugby world has ever seen. "Rugby is an exciting game at whatever level but the internationals bring out an even stronger desire to win. "
Jeremy is not only passionate about rugby but also about Somerset. He was born in Bath in July 1965 to his West Indian father Henry and his English mother Sue.
"My brother Gary came along a couple of years later and we were a happy family, although my father was pretty strict," he says. "He believed in standards and we all had to keep to them. Better that than being allowed to run riot but we were not allowed to go out and play.
"I went to Ralph Allen comprehensive school in Bath. I have always loved Bath and still live in the area. I did struggle with discipline at school, I don't know why and still can't really explain it. I think things must have changed quite a lot because I was always getting into trouble for something. I was disciplined for answering back to teachers or ignoring them or just being plain obstinate. I suppose I did not endear myself too much to them."
Jeremy was, of course, a keen and very good rugby player at school. "I liked all sports really," he says. "I loved rugby but I also enjoyed football, cricket and judo. Sport was my thing and I was quite good at everything I tried."
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He neglects to mention that he won a South West judo title during his teens.
"I was seven when I first played rugby. I joined what was known as the Bath Rugby Minis and played through the age ranks until I was about 16. Then I joined Walcot Juniors and was playing for the Bath Youth Team. From there I was close to playing for the first team. When I was 19 I made my full debut and that was it, a first team regular and then I made my full England debut against Romania in Bucharest in 1989. It was a great day for me, especially as I scored three tries."
In those days even international rugby had amateur status and Jeremy had to have other work for income.
"I did some bricklaying, became a bus driver and also worked for British Gas in their sales department," he recalls. "Almost all rugby players had other jobs and businesses in those days. Today most are fairly well-paid professionals but still have other interests. I was once offered the chance to play Rugby League professionally for big money but I turned it down. Rugby Union was my game and I wanted to stick with it."
And stick with it he did - big time! Jeremy won countless honours at both club level with Bath and with England at international level. His esteem is such that Sir Clive Woodward, who steered England to Rugby World Cup victory, once refered to him as the 'Prince of Centres' and when Jeremy left the field at the end of his final England match in which he scored a sensational try against Tonga, the entire packed Twickenham crowd rose to give him a standing ovation.
Today, Jeremy Guscott still calls Bath and Somerset home but he travels far and wide in great demand as a rugby commentator and pundit, an after-dinner speaker, a model, a newspaper columnist and a TV presenter whose list of successes include hosting the ever-popular Gladiator series.
His career in rugby has always been the most important part of his life, other than his family - he has three daughters. In November 2016, rugby showed its appreciation when he was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, an accolade that puts Jeremy into the list of the world's greatest rugby players of all time.
That's not bad for a boy from Bath who did not particularly enjoy his school days but found fame doing what he loved the most - playing rugby.
He was born in Bath on Wednesday, July 7, 1965
In 1987 he spent the summer in Australia playing for Wollongong Waratahs RFC
As a bus driver he worked for the famous Badgerline company
He is very well-spoken and articulate, hence his TV and radio work
Jeremy is also a very good golfer
Other pastimes include fly-fishing, clay-pigeon shooting and tennis
He once broke his arm while playing for the British Lions on tour in South Africa
Jeremy played for Bath first team from 1984 to 2000, scoring 710 points in 266 appearances
He is married to Saz and they co-own a cosmetics business. His three daughters are Imogen, Holly and Saskia, from his previous marriage.
At a charity evening to help support Oxfam's 50th anniversary, Jeremy became a catwalk model for the first time in front of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. He later described it as 'terrifying'