Rodwell is a punishing runner with professional experience
Playing rugby professionally might be a dream for many, but it’s not a perfect dream for some.
Take Sebastian Rodwell. Rodwell is a 20-year-old center who spent the past season playing center for Cavallieri in the top Italian league. He was a regular selection for the Italian U20 team until he aged out, helping them to a FIRA European title in 2009 and a Junior World Trophy title in 2010.
This spring he was called up to the Italy A side for the Churchill Cup … and decided not to accept. Why? Because Rodwell also qualifies for the USA (he has a German mother, English father, lives in Italy, and was born in California). He has, this past year, grown concerned that young professionals in Italy can be treated like so much cattle, with little thought given to their futures should they get injured, or simply lose form.
“I knew if I played for Italy A in just one game, I would be locked in with Italy for the rest of my life,” Rodwell told RUGBYMag.com. “What I wanted to do instead was get an education. I wanted to keep my options open to play for the USA, and I wanted to come to the United States to attend college and play rugby.”
Rodwell is a 6-2, 230-pound center who loves the contact. His game centers around running hard into large groups of tacklers, and forcing three or four to spend effort to bring him down. He has parlayed that into a professional contract, but is willing to leave that life to go to college in the USA.
“I would like to combine rugby with a study program here in a America,” said Rodwell, who attended the USA 7s CRC just to get an idea of what the college game is like. “The structures in Italy don’t combine sports with studying. That’s what America is really good at. This event today is all college teams where players play rugby and study.”
Rodwell’s father was attending college in UC Davis (studying winemaking, which is what he does now) when Sebastian was born. Therefore he qualifies for the USA. He helped Cavallieri finish 2nd in the Italian league this year.
“It was all very exciting,” he said. “But you look around. There’s so many players who get injured. It’s easy for a player that’s made it. But I was told I should try it for two or three years, and then if it doesn’t work out, you try something else, and that’s not a good answer. I didn’t want to spend all my time just training and going home and sitting on the sofa and watching TV.”
Rodwell said his attributes center around attacking the line and playing tough defense. He is also a 7s player, having attended an Italian national camp.
“There could be a chance for me in 7s, too; I’ve got to learn a lot more about how 7s works, but the ball is the same,” he said.
Rodwell and his father came to the USA to meet with coaches, and he has met with a few already.
“It’s difficult because English is not my first language,” he said. “Speaking to a lot of people can be difficult. But I am excited, and I am excited about this 7s event, to see so many people here and that it’s one TV is great.”
Rodwell is now looking to cross how own Rubicon and make a go of it in the USA. He is a big, hard-running center with a solid international pedigree. But what has brought him to the USA is not the prospect of a supposedly easy cap, Rather, he is looking to this country to offer what it has always offered: opportunity. Rugby is important, sure, but secondary. He wants an education, and hopes rugby can provide it.