Nev Edwards: From playground to Premiership - with Cipriani's help

Nev Edwards
Nev Edwards has five tries in six appearances this season

In January 2015, Nev Edwards was working a nine-to-five job for Red Bull in their sales team and playing rugby union part-time at Rosslyn Park in National League One - the third tier of the English game.

Fast forward 12 months and the winger has earned his first professional contract at Sale Sharks, is their leading try scorer and is playing alongside childhood friend Danny Cipriani.

"My mentality has always been that if I keep working hard and working at my game then I will get there," the 28-year-old told BBC Sport. "That's what I stuck to in my mind."

Edwards got his chance after Cipriani, also 28, recommended Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond offer a trial to his former school mate, telling Diamond he thought he had all the attributes to make it at the top level.

He was given a three-month period to impress last summer where he was guaranteed to play in two friendlies, and his attitude and elusive footwork did enough to secure a one-year deal.

"He's done a remarkable job," said Diamond. "He listens to Paul Deacon [attack and kicking coach] and [defence coach] Mike Forshaw.

"He's good at the breakdown as well as ball in hand - he's still got a lot to learn positional wise but he's a great asset.

"The credit goes to Nev himself working with the coaches and he's just a good lad really."

'Cipriani was one of those guys'

Danny Cipriani
Danny Cipriani in action for Whitgift School where he played alongside Nev Edwards

Before his stint at Rosslyn Park, Edwards had played in the Championship at Bedford whom he joined after being released from the London Irish academy.

He joined the Exiles after attending Whitgift School, where he played alongside future England fly-half Cipriani in the first team.

"We played cricket together first and then ended up going to the same school," added Edwards.

"We always knew at a young age he was going to do very well whatever sport he chose, he was one of those guys - I'm just happy he's done so well."

The pair's 16-year friendship appears to be showing signs of fruition on the pitch, with Cipriani twice setting up Edwards for tries this season with perfectly timed kicks.

"It's awesome to be playing with him again. As long as we keep performing on the pitch hopefully those tries will come."

Whitgift first team
Nev Edwards (back, far left), Danny Cipriani (back, sixth from left) and JB Gill (back, fourth from right) in the Whitgift School first-team photo from 2005

The boy band connection

Edwards also made another lifelong friend at school through rugby, but a man who took a different career path.

While Edwards kept his rugby dream alive, Jonathan Benjamin Gill, or 'JB', decided to focus on singing rather than sport. After leaving Whitgift School, he also left the London Irish academy.

Gill went on to become part of boy band JLS, who had five UK number one singles.

"He was really good at school actually but obviously we took different paths," said Edwards. "He's massively into his rugby, he really loves it."

The pair still keep in touch and Edwards sent Gill a Sale shirt for his son Ace, who recently celebrated his first birthday.

JB Gill
JB Gill showed his thanks to Nev Edwards for his son's shirt

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