10 April 2012, 9:00 am by Melissa Platt

Well known faces from the rugby world took to the city yesterday to meet some of the country’s leading businessmen and women at The RPA Business Club Networking Evening, hosted by Official Business Partner of The RPA, Aviva.

The RPA Business Club Networking Evenings are held across the country for players from each Aviva Premiership Club as part of The RPA Player Development Programme (PDP). This programme aims to individually assist players in their personal and professional development and provides them with skills for a smooth transition into life after rugby.

Premiership Rugby title sponsor Aviva have already given tremendous support to The RPA Player Development Programme, showing commitment beyond a traditional sponsorship role by creating a business mentoring scheme linked to their senior leaders and helping players understand the opportunities in the insurance sector with mini-assessment sessions in York and London.

Anne Filatotchev, UK Marketing Director, Aviva, added: “Aviva are very proud of our partnership with The RPA. It’s not just that we provide our products and services for the players but are playing a wider role in helping some of them work out the professional direction that they want to pursue in their lives after rugby. This we do through our Mentoring programme with players which gives them access to and guidance from some of our senior leaders.”

In the shadows of The Gherkin, players from Harlequins, London Irish, London Wasps, Saracens and Bath mingled with professionals from the worlds of Insurance, Finance, Law, Education, Sport and Leisure, Property and Travel to develop a better understanding of potential avenues open to them when they finally hang up their boots.

For some, this time has arrived sooner than they would have wished. Former Bath flanker, Andy Beattie, said: “Having unfortunately had to retire through injury last month, I’ve come up from Bath to talk to people in the financial sector which is something I’m interested in. There’s a good range of businesses here and really good guys to chat to.”

For others still playing, the evening was a chance to make contacts, discuss their long-term aspirations and start putting in place a plan to ensure they are in a position to fulfil their ambitions when their rugby careers come to an end.

London Irish scrum-half, Paul Hodgson, said: “This is the fourth RPA networking night I’ve come to. This one’s with Aviva and it’s been fantastic. I’ve made four or five really good contacts which I will definitely chase up. Hopefully I’ll carry on playing for another four or five years but it’s good to start preparing now for life after rugby.

“I’m still unsure as to exactly what I want to do, but I’m very interested in the coaching side of the game, especially the business side of coaching and also in the education set up, so I’ve been talking to the Head of Sport at Dulwich College who has given me a great insight into teaching.”

Bath prop, Duncan Bell, who cut a dashing figure in his newly acquired pin stripe suit, spent much of the night trying to ignore Andy Beattie’s “David Brent” comparisons: “I’ve been called David Brent for the last hour which has been enjoyable as you can imagine. Despite that it was definitely worth making the effort to come up from Bath.

“I’m hoping my own business (Bell Financial Services) will kick off, but it’s still good to come to these networking evenings and meet people and you really benefit from some of the expert advice you receive at these events.”

Among those players in attendance were: Bob Casey, Paul Hodgson, Kieran Roche, Richard Thorpe, Joe Ansbro, Jonathan Spratt, Adrian Jarvis, (London Irish) Hugh Vyvyan (Saracens), Marco Wentzel, Chris Bell, Ben Broster (London Wasps), Olly Kohn, Joe Marler, Mark Lambert, Tom Williams, Matt Cairns (Harlequins), Duncan Bell and Andy Beattie (Bath).