RUBBING shoulders with legends of the global game can’t be a bad grounding for any aspiring rugby player.

And that is exactly what Warriors’ globe-trotting centre Andy Symons has done so far in his emerging career.

Originally from Hertfordshire, the 23-year-old has already had two spells playing in New Zealand, as well as a year with the Leicester Tigers academy, before arriving at Sixways in November.

What was intended to be a brief trip to play some rugby in New Zealand ended up with Symons lining up against legendary All Blacks such as Conrad Smith, Piri Weepu and Cory Jane.

The talented midfielder explained: “I contacted the Canterbury academy as they run an international programme for a month where they base you somewhere, put you with a club and look after you. That went really well and I was only supposed to be there for a season, but I ended up playing for the Canterbury under 20s, who were coached by Aaron Mauger.

“He then got me to play for High School Old Boys, so I played another season for him, as well as being in the Canterbury academy and also being called up to the first team for the ITM Cup squad.

“That was an incredible experience and I played two warm-up games against Wellington and Tasman. Wellington had Conrad Smith, Piri Weepu, Cory Jane and Neemia Tialata playing for them, which was a bit of an eye-opener.”

Symons added: “I was also around the Canterbury environment, so you’d see the likes of Kieran Read, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter coming in and out.

“They were such humble blokes and it was a lovely environment to be in. I would watch them train with the Crusaders in the afternoon and to see their work-ethic and how dedicated they are was something I learnt by watching.

“You did get the occasional interaction and I remember when Sonny-Bill Williams went to play for Canterbury he introduced himself to me and some of the academy guys in the gym.

“You can’t help but try to model your game on his because he is such a specimen and an incredible player.”

Despite a nomadic start to his career, Symons insists he is ready to put down some roots with Worcester.

He said: “Ultimately, I want to play in the UK and I want to be loyal to a club. Dean’s plans are incredibly exciting and, with the facilities at Sixways and the coaching team, it was an easy choice for me to sign for Worcester.”