Worthian, Tom Calnan (R’95) has made it into the 2014 Guinness World Records as the oldest player to debut in full internationals in both union and league.
Tom was 36 years 50 days when he made his debut for the UAE rugby union side against Hong Kong in Dubai, UAE on 11 Dec 2012. He had previously represented the UAE rugby league side in a match against Pakistan on 30 March 2012. The record was confirmed by an adjudicator from the Guinness World Records this year.
In the 1st XV rugby team when he was at Worth School, Voices asked Calnan, who now works in the Middle East for a leading law firm, to describe how rugby has featured in his life since leaving the School.
Where did you study after leaving Worth?
I went to Manchester University from 1996-1999 and played for Manchester University RFC, including the 1999 ‘Varsity Match’ vs Manchester Metropolitan. I then went to Guildford College of Law for two years (2000-2001) and joined Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) law firm in Sept 2001 as a trainee solicitor. I qualified into BLP’s real estate team in Sept 2003.
In 2009 an opportunity came up to join the firm’s new office in Abu Dhabi, which I jumped at – I had no idea whether the rugby would be any good out here, but was very pleasantly surprised! I now live in Dubai, and am a partner at King & Wood Mallesons, where I have been for just under a year.
What are your lasting memories of playing rugby at Worth?
I loved playing for the 1st XV at Worth, particularly on the old pitches next to Mount Noddy – we had a pretty good season in my final year, and I topped 100 points for the season playing at full-back.
Some of my best memories are being coached by Alan Mitchell, and of course Glenn Robertson, RIP. Our 1994 tour to Aurillac was also a highlight, for reasons I definitely can’t put into writing – suffice to say my memories are hazy!
I also played a bit of Sussex rugby and in addition we won the Worth 7s in my fourth year – 1994. We also reached the Quarter Finals of the Rosslyn Park 7s in 1995, with a fantastic team. It was also great to play House rugby for Rutherford with Larry Achike on the wing. He went on to win a Commonwealth gold in the triple jump, and was easily/unsurprisingly the fastest guy I have ever played rugby with.
What’s different about playing the sport in the UAE and what are the training facilities like in Abu Dhabi?
It’s a bit hotter, and the outdoor training is therefore harder. I play for the Abu Dhabi Harlequins here and the facilities are fantastic – great equipment and amazing flat pitches, which are watered regularly. The coaching is also excellent, to a semi-professional standard.
Training is two evenings a week which is a big commitment, but it can be done. We also have the Dubai 7s every year, where we are entered into the Gulf Club tournament, which is a fantastic competition. The Gulf League involves games against teams in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but also in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain; so we get flown around the Gulf for league games (at the Club’s expense!) – a great way to see more of the region whilst I am out here.
Do you have a match lined up soon?
I’m not playing at the moment alas – I broke my collar bone at the end of last season, sadly – and I may hang up the boots shortly (TBC)! But we shall see (never say never)… I will be supporting the team at Dubai 7s when they next play though.
How realistic are you about holding on to the record?
I’ve really no idea! It seems pretty beatable to me (I was only just 36 when I made my ‘second debut’ which is not exactly ancient). We will see, but it’s good to have had been in the records, even if it’s only for one year! To be honest, getting a mention was just a bit of fun – the real privilege for me is to have got the Rugby Union caps in the first place, which included playing in the Emirates Cup of Nations against Hong Kong and Zimbabwe – a great honour. Winning the Rugby League cap was also a very good occasion, particularly as we won that game: 30-26 vs Pakistan.