At just 26 years old, former Saracens and London Irish back Ben Ransom is ready to trade in a career on the field for one in the City.
The former Premiership rugby player is studying for a master's in business administration at the University of Oxford and is preparing to move into investment banking, although not before one last bout – today's Varsity Match.
Ransom will start at full-back for Oxford when they meet Cambridge at Twickenham in the 137th edition of the event, which has been held every year since 1872, barring the two world wars.
Oxford are looking to bounce back from two defeats in a row and this year have the experience of Ransom, as well as former England and Harlequins lock George Robson, in their ranks.
Where it began
Ransom started his career at Saracens, signing a full-time contract with them at 18 after leaving school.
“I thought it would be silly to not at least try and give it a go at professional sport so grabbed it with both hands. I had six unbelievable years there, three Premierships, one Champions Cup, one Heineken Cup runners up,” Ransom tells City A.M.
“They had a core group of players that really understood what the culture was and bought into it, it was almost like an extended family. I had Alex Goode ahead of me and it was great to learn from him but I couldn't kick him out of the side to get a starting position. That was my only sort of regret.”
Having turned down an offer from the University of Bristol when signing for Sarries, he undertook a degree in economics at Hertfordshire University alongside playing rugby.
“I'm glad I did that as it opened up opportunities for me to do a master's and gave me a good foundation. You never know when a rugby career could end, as it does to a lot of the guys through injury, so it gave me something to fall back on. “
Life at Irish
After failing to dismount Goode as Saracens' first choice full-back, Ransom decided it was time to look elsewhere. A move to London Irish transpired in 2016 and his spell started well as they gained promotion to the Premiership, with Ransom featuring in the majority of their 19 wins.
But it wasn't the fairytale it could have been and, after promotion, Ransom fell behind Scotland international Greig Tonks and All Black Jimmy Marshall in the pecking order, while England newcomer Joe Cokanasiga was also bursting onto the scene.
Irish were relegated and Ransom decided to leave the club a year before his contract expired in order to pursue his other ambitions.
“It was a difficult year last year, personally and for the team. We didn't have that experience at that level. We had some great players, but we just didn't step up to the next level which the Premiership definitely is.
“It was disappointing to get relegated, but also from a personal point of view to not be involved too much. I was playing quite well and I don’t think I got recognition to step up in the matchday 23. We just didn’t do enough to warrant playing in the Premiership.”
Ransom was a Rugby Players' Association representative during his two years at Irish and believes there is no reason why rugby players can't learn a trade or study in preparation for the end of their short careers.
“I applied to a few master's [courses] in January and it's always been a focus of mine outside of rugby as well,” he said.
“Careers could be ended very shortly, some don’t earn as much as footballers, so they are going to have to do something after – that was always in the back of my mind.
“As a rugby player everyone thinks it's full-on but I think it's eight per cent of our week committed to training and playing. You usually get two days off during the week.
“There's enough time to explore other things in terms of education, or to be in a coffee shop learning how to be a barista – that seems to be a trend at the moment among the rugby guys,” he jokes.
While studying at Oxford he has become an integral part of their rugby team, and as one of the experienced players on the side, is hoping that his leadership skills can stop Cambridge from claiming a third successive win in the Varsity Match.
The side have been playing well this season and Ransom is excited about stepping out at Twickenham for what could be the last time.
“Playing at Twickenham on any day is a great privilege. I've played there a few times with Saracens and Irish. I've actually played there in the Bill Beaumont Cup [English counties competition] as well, which is similar in that it's a one-off fixture.
“I think we're doing pretty well this year. We had a good game against Canada – it was a development squad for them but any international fixture is going to be tough. We played really well against Trinity, but our last game against Richmond was difficult.
“Oxford haven’t won for the last two years so we're underdogs, it's on us to go out and win it. It should be a good game.”
He hasn't ruled out a return to professional rugby, but for now his ambitions lie in investment banking, before ultimately returning to the sport he loves in another capacity.
“I would always be open to continuing to play,” he says. “If someone comes with a good offer in the Premiership I'll take that and see what it is, but at the moment I’ve firmly decided to transfer into the next phase of my life over the next 10, 20, 30 years within finance.
“At the moment I am applying for summer associate roles within investment banking. Then long-term I'd love to be involved in sport media and entertainment. I’ve always been involved in sport and would love to be out there giving back.”