Find out why university rugby proved key for the Bears forward 

Bristol back-row Fitz Harding

Date of birth 26 April 1999 Born London Position Back-row Club Bristol Bears Country England

When did you first play?

About five or six, at my local club, Beaconsfield. Even at that age it was great. I then went to Wellington College and played there.

What other sports did you play? 

I have three little brothers and we’re all sporty and competitive – tennis, golf, football, hockey. They’re all pretty serious about golf now, two of them play off scratch.

Who was your childhood rugby hero? 

Lewis Moody was someone I looked up to, just his approach to the game. Neil Back was a bit older but I had DVDs of when England won the World Cup.

What are your strengths? 

I’ve always tried to make myself a rounded player and pride myself on my work-rate. Over the last couple of years, my ball-carrying and offload game is something I’ve also really tried to emphasise.

What are you working on? 

Strength and power. I work closely with the athletic performance department to develop physically and be more dominant in the contact area, especially in defence.

Tell us about your route to Bristol…

In school it was quite tough. Lots of my classmates were involved in academies, but while I wanted to pursue a career in professional rugby I was quite a late developer.

Going to uni (Durham) was massive as I developed physically as a rugby player. I was playing in the BUCS Super League, had a chat to Pat Lam and it was a no-brainer to come here.

Did you finish your degree? 

Yes, I did three years at Durham studying history. It was great. If I’d had the opportunity to play professional rugby at 18, I’d have taken it, but in a funny way it worked out for the best for me. I’ve got a degree to fall back on and have a bit more perspective on the world.

The biggest influence on your career? 

My parents have always supported me and since I’ve been at the Bears, Jordan Crane has been huge for me.

RW Verdict: An impressive young man who has big goals but recognises the steps to get there, with his focus on playing consistently for Bristol. Harding has already made more Premiership starts for the Bears this season than last.

This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s February 2022 edition.

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