It’s been a common thread the spring, a long list of names of Championship players who have seamlessly gone on to feature in the Premiership. 

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Ever since the RFU caused a kerfuffle with its plan to halve its grants to the clubs in the English second tier, the developmental merits of the league have constantly been highlighted. 

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Fiji and the contractual dilemmas caused by the postponed Tokyo Olympics

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But how about this double whammy – a player earning his stripes in the Championship before moving up the ranks after a stint in Britain’s armed forces.

This is precisely the pathway Ifereimi Boladau has taken to Gallagher Premiership prominence this season with Leicester Tigers. 

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It’s rare that a player makes a top-flight debut at the veteran age of 33, but that is what Boladau did when stepping off the Welford Road bench last November for a first Premiership appearance in the Tigers colours after three teething runs in the Premiership Cup. 

He went on to appear on four more occasions in the league, starting at Sale at the end of February while also playing four times in the European Challenge Cup. 

All the while, the Fijian-born forward never cut his ties completely with his parent club as he turned out for Nottingham in their pre-Christmas Championship match at Coventry. 

It all makes for quite a story, especially the fact that Lance Bombardier in the British Army even spent 2018/19 out of the game to concentrate full-time on his military career.

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Having started in pro rugby at Ospreys in 2014 prior to stints at London Scottish and Rotherham, the suspension of the current rugby season due to the coronavirus outbreak has finally given him the opportunity to reflect on his breakthrough campaign at Tigers.

 

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Always good to meet up with the lads #brothers #kavasupplier ?

A post shared by faxbee | kaiviti | I.M.B? (@fax_boladau) on

Speaking to his loan club’s website, he said: “I’ve been so blessed to have been involved as much as I have with Leicester.

“One of the things you need to have in the army is to be mentally strong. In any job, you need to be mentally strong to push yourself forward, but especially in professional sport. Likewise, army life is quite physical, but if you don’t have that mental strength, you won’t last.

“To have all of that coming into such a big club like Leicester was important because you play rugby on a weekly basis, train every day, and if you’re not mentally strong, then you could struggle to keep up.

“Growing up in Fiji, the physicality is one of the big things of the game and that is one of the aspects that I really like about it.

“The physicality, the ball-carrying, the tackling – I love the physical side of rugby. When I joined (the army), I didn’t even know there was a rugby team.

“But I managed to get into the team and was so blessed to get a contract out of that as well. I couldn’t believe it when clubs started approaching me.”

WATCH: RugbyPass goes behind the scenes at the Leicester Tigers academy  

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