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Cardiff Met student signs full time rugby contract with Harlequins

​News | 2 June 2023

The rich history of Cardiff Met’s rugby production line has yet another name to be added.

Second year Sports Coaching student Roma Zheng has signed a contract with English Premiership club, Harlequins.

The famous west London club already has two Cardiff Met graduates, Alex Dombrandt and Luke Northmore, among its ranks.

Quins have also signed Roma to a deal which will see him transition to full time rugby after he completes his studies.

Cardiff Met’s rugby programme gained national media coverage last year when the then England coach, Eddie Jones, selected Cardiff Met graduates Northmore and Dombrandt in his 2022 Guinness Six Nations squad and labelled Cardiff Met a “breeding ground for test match rugby players”. Tom Pearson’s subsequent call-up to the England squad and Aaron Wainwright selection for Wales only reinforced his comments.

Now the news that Roma will join Alex and Luke at the Stoop has again highlighted both the quality of the high-performance sport experience at Cardiff Met, and the alternative to the Academy route into professional rugby the University offers.

The eventual move from being an Archer to a Harlequin is one that sits very well with the 21-year-old.

He said: “Before coming to Cardiff Met I had a few clubs I liked, but my favourite to watch was Harlequins. When my agent mentioned Quins, I said ‘you can stop there’.”

While Roma says he has dreamed about being a rugby player from the age of five, he is also clear that his academic work will continue to come first until he graduates in 2024.

He said: “Quins have been very reasonable in that they know that my education comes first. While some clubs might want players to join straight away, they were saying ‘let him get his degree’. I’ll be there training in pre-season and during the University breaks at Christmas and Easter.

“There may be the odd occasion when assignments are low that I can go, but Danny (Milton – Head of Men’s Performance Rugby) is likely to be my dissertation tutor next year, so he’ll know if I am behind on my assignments.”

Dr Milton, said: “We are really excited for Roma and feel he has the potential to grow and develop into an outstanding rugby talent.

“It is fantastic to see the approach Harlequins have taken to supporting Roma in finishing his academic studies while starting his career.

“We are excited to see Roma following in the footsteps of Alex and Luke and continue the relationship we have with Harlequins.

“We at Cardiff Met would like to congratulate Roma on his achievements so far and look forward to see him continue to grow his rugby and academic progress in his final year as he transitions to full time rugby with Harlequins.”

Students who choose to study at Cardiff Met will be following in the footsteps of sports greats such as rugby’s Sir Gareth Edwards and Olympians Lynn Davies and Helen Glover and will benefit from a Performance Sport programme designed to create the best possible environment to fulfil both academic and sporting potential.

For the coaches and players within the rugby environment, academic commitments will always be a priority over rugby participation and players will receive full support from within the rugby club to manage time effectively and reach their academic goals.