Meet the rugby player who went from coal-mining to Wallabies hooker 4 years ago

Meet the rugby player who went from coal-mining to Wallabies hooker

Josh Mann-Rea was fixing roof bolts to walls in a New South Wales coal-mine six years ago. On Saturday he hopes to meet Les Bleus at Stade de France.

In 2000, Mann-Rea felt sure he was a couple of years away from his Test debut when he toured France with the national Under 19s. 14 years on and the 33-year-old Wallabies hooker is back in France, having made his international bow last month. Mann-Rea went from promising hooker to Australian Rugby Championship hooker to a cash-strapped hooker with an uncertain future in the space of six years. At the age of 26, in 2007, he was faced with the option of shelving his dream of representing his country.

He told The Courier Mail, 'I thought it was time to get a real job, earn some money and look after the family. I had an opportunity to work in the mines and couldn’t say no.' Mann-Rea installed roof bolts for most of his first year in Illawarra before he secured a development job, building roads and long walls in the coal-mines.

In 2009 he received a call from a friend who was playing in Japan's J-League for Kyuden Voltex. The club had an injury crisis at hooker and Mann-Rea was asked to send a playing CV. He had played for the Wallabies U19 and U21 teams and had extensive ARC experience so was flown over for training sessions and, less than a week later, was a professional rugby player in Japan.

The Rugby Championship - Argentina v Australia

He returned to Australia in 2011 and played a season and a half with the Waratahs before the ACT Brumbies, and coach Jake White, came calling. Mann-Rea was actually signed by the Brumbies as an 'Emerging Player' and had taken a pay-cut for the privilege. When former Australian captain Stephen Moore was injured, the replacement hooker once again stepped up and did all that was asked of him.

In late September, he was called into the Wallabies squad by Ewen McKenzie and came off the bench in defeats to Argentina and New Zealand. Former Leinster coach Michael Cheika is now in-situ as coach but Mann-Rea remained in the squad.

Speaking in Paris today, Mann-Rea said, 'I'm not here to make up the numbers or that sort of thing. I want to show what I've got. There's no better feeling than playing for your country and representing your family.'