A UNIVERSITY lecturer has scored the job of his dreams after being made lead physiotherapist for the England Students’ Rugby Union team.

Stephen Rowell, from Bishop Auckland, applied for the role after working as an instructor on the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) pitch-side immediate care course, never imagining to get it after an competitive selection process.

The England Students’ team identifies and assists the development of the best university and college-based rugby players in the UK. In turn, it gives student players the unparalleled opportunity to play rugby at an international level.

As lead physiotherapist, it will be Mr Rowell's job to ensure the team are on top form for their upcoming tour and that they have access to the right equipment.

The England team will take on their French counterparts twice as part of a ten-day tour.

The first fixture in his new role sees the England Universities’ team take on their equivalents from France on April 14, at Chester RUFC.

They will then travel to France for the second fixture at the Stade Gilbert Santiago in Barbizeux on April 19.

However, this is not Mr Rowell's first taste of the sport as he has played both Rugby Union and Rugby League at amateur level.

After completing a BSc in sport and exercise science, he even moved to live and play rugby in Italy, only giving up to pursue a career as a physiotherapist.

Upon achieving a master’s qualification in physiotherapy at the University of Teesside, Mr Rowell worked for the NHS before returning to his roots, providing physiotherapy expertise to Hull FC in the Super League and later Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club.

The 36-year-old worked full-time in professional rugby for four years before swapping the high-pressure, time-consuming roles for an academic career at the University of Cumbria.

He now feels he has more of a work-life balance and experiences the best of both worlds, combining his love of sport, teaching and research while allowing him more time with his family.

Mr Rowell still provides physiotherapy support to Newcastle Falcons Academy players and coaches his son’s rugby team.

He said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity being able to develop my physiotherapy expertise at an elite level.

“Opportunities as a physiotherapist in the world of elite international sport don’t come up very often and so I am hugely grateful for the support of my managers for seeing this as a great chance and supporting me on this adventure.”

Mr Rowell's role will not only benefit his development but that of his students on the MSc Physiotherapy course, as he plans to take some of them on the UK leg of tour with him, providing them with hard-to-come-by industry experience.

His role is to work with the team over a two-year period and offers other development opportunities.

The whole support team including physiotherapists, doctors, analysts, coaches and managers are professionally developed with the view of them taking their learning experiences back to the amateur game.

In the future, Mr Rowell plans to develop his own PhD in the area of musculoskeletal research in rugby union, focusing on players landing mechanics, injury prevention and performance maximisation.