Exclusive: New Scarlets fly-half Charlie Titcombe on Worcester, returning to Loughborough and achieving his dream

Charlie Titcombe was BUCS Super Rugby's Player of the Season in 2022/23
©BUCS Sport

After guiding Loughborough University to a BUCS Super Rugby league title in 2022-23, Charlie Titcombe will be getting another stab at professional rugby.

Just over a year ago, the fly-half was fresh off the back of helping England Students to victory over France Universities and had a future with Worcester Warriors on the horizon.

As the summer wore on, Titcombe’s dream move began to be picked apart as talk of financial woes continued to intensify. 

Spending his summer in the West Midlands, his time at Sixways Stadium would come to a premature close as the club blinked out of existence. 

Titcombe, who was still completing his bachelor’s degree in Sports and Science, phoned up former Loughborough head coach Scott Sneddon to say he would be returning to campus full-time.

“Fancy a trip to Hollow Drift [Durham University's ground]?” was the Welshman’s response.

“As long as they cut the grass,” Titcombe said back.

What followed for Loughborough and their principal playmaker was a season unparalleled for the team in the BUCS Super Rugby era which resulted in the youngster being named as the competition’s Player of the Season.

After making the leap from fourth, Loughborough went on to top the league under the stewardship of Martin Webdale, who was installed as interim head coach following Sneddon’s departure to Scarlets.

Such was Titcombe’s influence, it earned him a second call-up for England Students, where he started at full-back as England beat France 25-21 on foreign soil for the first time in 17 years.

But perhaps more significantly, he was also offered another professional contract. 

Joining United Rugby Championship side Scarlets alongside his Loughborough University teammate Teddy Leatherbarrow, the pair will reunite with former coach Sneddon as they compete for a starting slot while senior, more established players are away at the Rugby World Cup.

“I was desperate to go back [to Loughboorugh] and I have always wanted to play professional rugby,” Titcombe said. “I sort of put all my eggs in one basket with that. 

“Obviously at uni, I wanted to get a degree, but the one thing I wanted to do was play professional rugby. I was pretty excited when the opportunity came up.

“I went down for a week when we had a week off from BUCS Super Rugby. The boys were really welcoming and an absolutely class set-up. 

“When a contract offer came through from them, I was really excited and it was one I couldn’t turn down really.”

There will even be the opportunity for Titcombe to play alongside his former school and Leicester Tigers Academy teammate, Sam Costelow. 

Both attended Oakham School together, Costelow making a handful of appearances for the Tigers before moving back to the country of his birth.

Making his Wales debut in 2022, Costelow’s international commitments may well keep him out of domestic contention for the start of the new season and that could present an opportunity for Titcombe as the region hope to start a new campaign brightly under Dwyane Peel following their 14th place finish.

After experiencing the downfall of Worcester last year, Titcombe was undeterred in his pursuit to carry on playing professional rugby and cites university rugby as his lifeline.

“I have wanted to play professional rugby ever since getting released by Tigers at 18,” Titcombe explained.

After guiding Loughborough University to a league title Titcombe has signed for URC side Scarlets
©Still Sport

“Then to go and get that opportunity, and I absolutely loved it for the first four months, when it is taken away from you it is tough.

“I had to look at it as being in a lot more of a fortunate position than some of the other boys in terms of having university to fall back on.

“It wasn’t like I was 25 and having to provide for people. I could go back, do my uni degree and play BUCS Super Rugby which is quality rugby.

“There are a lot of eyes on you. It was tough, for sure, but I was in a lot more fortunate position than some of the boys at the end of the day.”

Turning back to a ravenous Loughborough University team was perhaps the best thing that Titcombe could have done.

For years, the institution of British sport has had praise rained onto it, although its premiere men’s rugby team in the foremost university competition has not contended consistently for silverware.

Having had a production line of talent long before live streams were even considered on cold Wednesday nights, Titcombe is in good company among the ranks that have spent time in the East Midlands.

It was only three years ago that Leicester Tigers regulars Freddie Steward and Dan Kelly were in the student ranks. The pair of them now have Test caps to their name and Steward is England’s undisputed full-back.

With several players nearing the end of their time at Loughborough, whether they were in the final throes of their undergraduate degrees or masters’, it was very much a now-or-never attitude which fuelled the side.

Winning the league at a canter at the season’s end, it would not be a dream league and cup double for those in African Violet as Exeter University secured consecutive Champions final victories with a 48-44 win.

“We set out to go and do the double,” Titcombe said. “We had a pretty old team, and when Scott came in, he gave us all a bit of paper and said, ‘Write down what you want to achieve’ and everyone wrote down ‘a trophy’.

“All the boys leaving said their worst memory was not winning something with their mates. We thought we were good enough to go and chase that double, and we got pretty close.

“We slipped at the final hurdle but to go and win the league and win something for Loughborough in the BUCS Super Rugby era, it was good.”

After Titcombe’s announcement as an incoming Scarlets player, it is more than likely that the 21-year-old will be joined by a hoard of other BUCS Super Rugby players into the professional ranks.

There are probably a number of reasons for this. One would be how BUCS Super Rugby’s profile continues to grow and another would be the financials. 

Titcombe is all too aware of the game’s frailties. Professional rugby is fleeting at best, and after the immense spotlight on the sport's troubles these past 12 months, belts are being tightened across the board.

Titcombe will link up with former Oakham School teammate Sam Costelow
©Still Sport

No more can this be seen than in the Gallagher Premiership’s salary cap remaining at £5m and the various funding arguments which blew up in Wales during the most recent Guinness Six Nations.

On a positive note, more shoots of relationships can be found between professional set-ups and the university game with Bristol Bears Academy players Tom Gardner and Ollie Thraves having signed ‘BUCS Super Rugby pathway’ contracts.

“I think it [university rugby] is definitely a respected way [to professional rugby] that is coming more to the forefront for academies to watch,” Titcombe said.

“You just have to look at Fred Davies, who is going well at Bristol, played a few Premiership games and it is kicking on.

“I think the more that the years go by, the more and more successful examples there are of boys coming from BUCS Super Rugby set-ups, playing BUCS Super Rugby and then getting that opportunity.

“It is not going to happen for everyone, but if players have a good season, the opportunity is massively there, and that is growing and growing.

“It is a massive opportunity for clubs to look at players from university that are cheap and hungry to push on, learn and improve.

“I hope BUCS Super Rugby is more of a respected pathway than when I was younger but I think all the coaches and players, and the academies, they like it.”