Not too many Community Development Officers get to line out with the club’s first-team, but Alan Awcock has been doing just that at London Welsh.
Awcock has featured in both of the Exiles’ pre-season friendlies, against Chinnor and the Scarlets, having joined the club last year tasked with rolling out its community development programme across Oxfordshire, following its promotion to the Premiership.
The summer, however, has seen him training two days a week with Justin Burnell’s first-team squad at Old Deer Park before making his debut for the club - a 30 minute cameo at full back in Welsh’s 107-5 win over Chinnor at Kingsey Road.
Last Sunday, he racked up further game time in a 16-16 draw with the Scarlets at the Kassam Stadium.
“I think there are still a few faces who are a bit unsure why I’m involved, but hopefully I’ll get the chance in another game or two and will be able to prove my worth,” said Awcock.
“I enjoy playing rugby, I’ve played it all my life so it’s nice to be able to play in that professional level and be part of what will hopefully be a successful team.”
But Awcock is far from a novice plucked from rugby obscurity to be handed a dream opportunity. He’s spent the last four seasons playing in the Welsh Premiership with Newport RFC, while completing his degree and a Masters at UWIC, which included one pre-season training season with the Dragons.
He’s also previously played for England Students alongside London Welsh prop forward Billy Moss, as well as playing against Exiles scrum half Rob Lewis last season for Newport against Cardiff.
Although things might have panned out differently had he signed for London Welsh after finishing his degree, when former head coach, and current Scarlets forwards coach, Danny Wilson showed an interest in bringing him to Old Deer Park.
The idea of Awcock training with the Welsh first-team this pre-season was initially muted at the club’s Golf Day last month, with Awcock then returning from a week’s holiday to go straight into training twice a week with Burnell’s squad.
“It was obviously a step up from what I’m used to, but I’ve been in a professional environment before where I’ve trained full-time,” he said.
“So I know what’s expected but to be asked to train with the club after working for it was an honour.”
In addition to his community work for London Welsh, Awcock’s two days a week training with the Exiles is augmented by two evenings spent with National One side Henley Hawks, for whom he’s signed to for the season.
With the two sides set to lock horns at Dry Leas next Saturday in a friendly it remains to be seen which jersey Awcock will be pulling on.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Henley shirt, rather than Welsh. I don’t know if I’ll be involved in any further London Welsh games but I’ve been asked to continue training with the squad, so I’ll just get my head down and keep working hard,” he said.