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Scrum-half ready for front line

Connacht's Angus Lloyd eager to sit final medical exams and join the fight against COVID-19

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Angus Lloyd with colleagues while training at Beaumont Hospital

Angus Lloyd with colleagues while training at Beaumont Hospital

Angus Lloyd with colleagues while training at Beaumont Hospital

Back in the summer of 2016 when Angus Lloyd took Ulster up on their offer of a development contract, the Dubliner made the tough decision to put his medical studies on hold.

By that stage, the dream of playing professional rugby had been parked, but when given a second chance, Lloyd grabbed it with both hands.

Had that opportunity not presented itself, he would now be working in the fight against Covid-19, but the deferred year means that he is due to sit his final exams next week.

That they have been brought forward considerably on such short notice is a concern, but with everything that is going on right now, Lloyd is eager to do whatever he can to play his part.

The 27-year-old and his fellow students will be put through a rigorous online test before they expect their results to be processed quickly in a bid to ensure that Ireland has more qualified doctors ready to join the front line.

Brought forward

In normal circumstances, those students who are successful in their finals would begin working in hospitals as interns come July, but they are expecting that start date to be brought forward, as Lloyd explains.

"It's very likely to be a lot earlier than July. It is almost guaranteed to be significantly earlier," he says. "It's really going to be a matter of how quickly they can process all our results and get us all registered.

"Everyone is really keen to try get in and help out. That's the ultimate goals for all of us - to get in and help as much as we can.

"There is added pressure this year due to the time constraints. Everyone accepts that we didn't really have any other option. We had to sit those exams early. We had very little notice but no one has really complained.

"Throughout your entire medical degree, you think you're going to go into your finals as the most prepared you could possibly be; then to only have a couple of days' notice for the long-case exam was overwhelming.

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Angus Lloyd at a Connacht training session. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Angus Lloyd at a Connacht training session. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Angus Lloyd at a Connacht training session. Photo: SPORTSFILE

"Everyone was happy to do it though because it means you are that bit closer to graduating and getting into the hospitals to help.

"I don't think any of us will be any more overwhelmed than we would have been in other years. Intern year is always a scary year because all of a sudden you now have responsibilities and you are making decisions."

For the last 15 months, Lloyd has been playing with Connacht, who, like the Royal College of Surgeons, have been hugely supportive in his attempts to juggle rugby and his studies.

Unlike four years ago, when he took a year out of college, Lloyd has tried to balance the two, but he underestimated how challenging it would be.

But that kind of pressure is nothing like his future colleagues are facing every day, which is why he is keen to keep everything in perspective.

"The anticipation of what is to come is the worst part, particularly when you look at what has happened in other countries," Lloyd maintains.

"From the people I've spoken to, it's been tough in the hospitals, but there is a good sense of camaraderie.

"There is a sense that the surge is coming, which is constantly on everyone's mind. The anticipation of what is to come is worse than what is going on at the moment."

Rugby has now taken a back seat as Lloyd readies himself to hopefully begin his new career, in which he aims to specialise in surgery.

"Unfortunately, it has been a sad end to my rugby career because this will probably be my last season," he admits.

"It's not possible to do professional rugby with a full-time medical career. My aim now is to get through the exams and start intern year.

Hospital

"I'm hoping to keep playing with Clontarf, but for now, it's all about getting myself started in hospital.

"I didn't get much game-time in Connacht. Obviously Kieran Marmion was very unlucky not to go to the World Cup and that wasn't expected.

"Himself and (Caolin) Blade then were free for long periods, which meant that I wasn't really able to put my best foot forward. In terms of juggling rugby and medicine, it was tough. It was a very tough year ... I knew it would be, but I didn't think it would be as difficult. It was a lot to take on.

"But I think I came through it okay, we will see in a couple of weeks when I get my results!"

Back during the 2016-'17 season, a few months after his move to Belfast, he found himself in Limerick on a short-term loan, which Munster subsequently extended until the end of the season.

The former Blackrock student then returned to college, where he again caught the eye with Trinity and later Clontarf in the All-Ireland League, before Connacht offered him another short-term deal in December 2018, which carried into this season.

Lloyd has now reached the end of this particular journey and having achieved more in professional rugby than most people can dream of, he is hoping that helps prepare him for what's to come.

"When I started this medical degree, I hadn't played any professional rugby," he recalls.

"If you'd told me then that I would have played for three different provinces and played in a Heineken Cup quarter-final (for Munster against Toulouse in 2017), I would have said you were joking.

"I am incredibly proud to have done as well as I did. I'm sad that it's the end of a chapter, but I enjoyed every second of it.

"It was definitely a lot tougher than I thought - the pressure of performing is like no other. It has given me a more rounded view on life."