Ones To Watch – Tobey Lee

We keep a watchful eye on Wales’ up and coming sports stars  

 Full Name: Tobey Lee 

Sport: Rugby 

Current Club: University of Mary Washington  

Age: 20 


Would you say playing several sports has helped you develop into the player you are today?  

I think playing sports like touch rugby, football, squash, and cricket, as a grown up, has helped me see the pitch in a different way than someone who only plays rugby. 

It has helped me develop skills such as scanning the pitch more effectively and improved my hand-eye coordination. By putting myself in so many different scenarios, I have built muscle memory and gained a better understanding of certain situations. 

In sport, you have to constantly adapt to changing pictures and situations. Therefore, it is really important to have experiences in different sports.  

When did you realize rugby was the sport for you?  

I had been playing football since I was young, within the Manchester City system, and I was enjoying it. But I got to the stage where I had to choose between rugby or football as you cannot play both on a Saturday.

I had to make a decision around the ages of 11/12. It was a hard decision, especially at such a young age. I had just started playing at Sale Rugby FC, and I ended up choosing the rugby route.  

It was all a learning curve, and I learned a lot from that time. Not getting into academies and dealing with disappointment can be difficult, but I have always thrown myself into the next thing, so I’ve never had much time to dwell on things. 

How difficult was it to overcome injuries when you were younger? 

2017 was a tough year for me as I had to sit on the side-lines due to injury for a long period. I broke the metatarsal in my right thumb after making a tackle in training, which was nothing out of the ordinary. 

During that period, I did not want to touch a rugby ball. It was frustrating having to sit on the side-lines and watch, without being able to influence the game. The journey to recovery was incredibly long, painful, and frustrating. 

As I started to return, I got involved with some touch rugby training sessions without knowing they were trial sessions for the U18’s Wales Touch Rugby team! But to get my first cap made up for all that hard work and pain that went into getting back to fitness. 

Where does your motivation come from to overcome setbacks? 

It has to be from my mum and my family. It’s down to the eye-opening talks that we’ve had for hours on end about whether rugby is something I want to keep doing, how much I love the sport, and if it is something I can see myself doing until I’m 30/35. Having that supportive network around you is huge. Things can get tough when you pick up little niggles or injuries, but being able to keep a level head and finding balance is hugely important. 

How have you been enjoying the move to America? 

In August 2021, I flew to Virginia to start the next chapter of my life at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) as a freshman and rugby player. It was never a plan. 

I had never thought about going to America, let alone to university while playing rugby. It all came about by chance. During lockdown, I had a lot of free time, and I edited some of my highlights from my college games and created a YouTube video to send out. 

The video was found by Ian Brown, who is a recruiter for the University of Mary Washington (UMW) rugby program, and he got in touch. 

It was a crazy time from June until August trying to get all the paperwork done, but it was a really exciting step for me. 

How have you adjusted to life in America?  

Playing rugby in America has been a different experience. Our team comprises players from various countries, such as Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France, Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales. There’s a lot to learn from their different approaches to the game. 

What is your proudest moment in your rugby career so far?  

One of my proudest moments was getting a scholarship to attend university in America and play rugby here. However, I believe that the best is yet to come. I have set personal goals for myself, and I am focused on achieving them in the coming months. 

What are your goals for the next few years?  

My long-term goal is to play rugby in Australia or New Zealand. Southern hemisphere rugby is a different breed altogether, and I would love to experience it first-hand. 

However, my main objective for now is to play in a team in the Gallagher Premiership. Currently, I am working on regaining full fitness before the start of the new season in August/September. 

I am planning to put my name into the MLR draft, either next summer or the summer after I graduate from school, hopefully I can secure a professional contract, but there’s plenty of work to be done before that.