Joe Ansbro can nonetheless bear in mind his dad climbing within the automotive with a lampshade on his head.
“My dad had been testing whether I fit into his car by putting a lampshade on his head apparently, in trying all these different ways to get in.”
The former Scotland centre smiles on the considered it now. Yet the weird picture was borne out of paternal fear and real concern for his son’s wellbeing – a son who simply weeks earlier had been carried off a rugby pitch with a damaged neck and now needed to regulate to life with a halo brace screwed to his head.
Ansbro’s story is kind of extraordinary. A proficient centre who turned the primary black man to play Test rugby union for Scotland in 2010, and who would go on to undergo a brutal neck fracture 4 years later.
Now a trainer at Harrow School, he admits he’s outlined today by not one of the above, however as “that bloke who headbutted Ally Strokosch when Scotland beat Australia” by his eagle-eyed pupils.
Ansbro can nonetheless bear in mind a lot in regards to the afternoon of 24 August 2012. A pre-season match towards Munster for London Irish began like every other, however resulted in a horrific damage that might lower quick his rugby profession on the age of 27.
“I didn’t think I’d broken my neck,” he informed the Chris Iwelumo Meets podcast. “I assumed I concussed myself – probably like my 30th concussion. I had a lot pain going down the front of my face. I knew something neuro had happened.
“I used to be rapidly pinned down by all of the medical workers for Irish and other people within the venue and so they type of did the entire thing on the splint, not shifting in that ambulance, ready exterior Cork University Hospital for about two hours. It was a Friday evening.
“After about three hours, I’d lost sense of blood flow to the back of my head and it was really uncomfortable. I started to ask to loosen the straps because in my head I was fine. You know, I hadn’t broken my neck. It was just a precaution. And then I kind of moved up a bit and I heard a clunk and then I was straight back down.”
Every week in hospital “staring at a ceiling” adopted, however Ansbro insists he all the time felt assured he’d make a full restoration, even when a query mark remained over his rugby profession.
“They put the screws into your skull. And you’re kind of like that for three months and you sleep like this. You’re upright, you don’t lie down any more,” he mentioned.
“The day I broke my neck is the day I completed on a flat in the Richmond area and my first bit of furniture was a hospital bed – which in a way was lucky because they’re not easy to get hold of.”
A transfer again to his household dwelling adopted with dad and his lampshade. It was that type of help which helped nurture him again to well being, and on to the life after rugby that might comply with lower than a yr later.
A ‘surreal’ Scotland debut
Ansbro says he’s nonetheless figuring out his personal path, however his journey till this level is a few story. Adopted right into a white household, a younger Ansbro grew up in Dumfries earlier than being schooled within the artwork of rugby in Lancashire. Soon the decision of college at Cambridge adopted, but it surely was the eye of Northampton whereas on the sphere that might change the trajectory of his rugby route.
“I was probably about 85 kilograms playing in the centre against a bunch of big lads,” he mentioned of a fateful afternoon. “I got to start outside centre and I was unconscious within 30 minutes. But it was an important 30 minutes because obviously it did enough to get Northampton interested.”
Four years at Northampton Saints ultimately provided a transfer to London Irish in 2011. By that time, Ansbro had already made historical past by taking part in for his nation, which he would do on 11 events earlier than his time on the sphere was cruelly lower quick.
“I’d watched Scotland play the All Blacks at Murrayfield with my family the week before,” he mentioned of the build-up to his debut towards South Africa in 2010.
“Six days later, I’m on the pitch up against the world champions. And it was surreal for someone who probably didn’t think they were going to play professional rugby, never mind represent Scotland.”
In doing so, Ansbro turned the primary black man to characteristic in a Test match for Scotland. But was it one thing he was conscious of?
“I was probably more concerned about my accent than the colour of my skin when it came to playing to Scotland,” he jokes with an accent not typical of a Dumfriesshire twang.
“I played a lot of rugby in Scotland before as a kid, and it was never brought up then. So in my head, I was just like: ‘Let’s just acknowledge it, and then just move on.'”
‘Ah, I do know who you might be…’
Life now could be very totally different from the highs of beating South Africa and Australia in a mud-stained Scotland shirt.
A biology trainer at Harrow, 34-year-old Ansbro splits his time with teaching. Rugby is clearly nonetheless necessary to him, however so too is household, and persevering with on his distinctive and unpredictable path. Although, a reminder of the previous isn’t distant.
“I already know how I’m defined. I say I work in a school. I am defined as the bloke who headbutted Ally Strokosch when Scotland beat Australia,” he laughs, recalling an over-exuberant celebration throughout a Scotland triumph in 2012. “Happens yearly, a brand new group of youngsters and: ‘Ah, I do know who you might be, you are that man.’
“I’ve had six years instructing, six years rugby. And in a method I’m nonetheless making an attempt to study.
“But in terms of what’s most important to me at the moment, then obviously it’s my boys, my family, and I wouldn’t want any of that to become problematic. That’s my priority, to ensure they have as good a life as I had and they can make decisions and judgments and perhaps speak a bit more fluently about contentious issues than I than I can.
“So yeah, that is definitely that is necessary to me.”
The first episode of the Chris Iwelumo Meets podcast shall be accessible this Wednesday on BBC Sounds.