Devout recruit on rugby mission

Nick Taylor

Robbie Abel is on a new mission in life.

Three years ago, the rising star of rugby put faith before football and came to WA for two years as a Mormon missionary.

Now the former Australian schoolboys representative is back to fulfil his Super Rugby dream as one of the Western Force's new signings. The powerful, softly spoken 24-year-old hooker was with the ACT Brumbies academy in 2010 when he chose a different road.

When his Mormon mission finished last year he went back to the Brumbies but caught the eye of Force coach Michael Foley, who invited him to move west again.

Abel has no regrets about putting his career on hold.

"To give up rugby for two years was hard but it was definitely worth it," he said.

"I had always wanted to play rugby and I worked pretty hard at it when I was young, but mission work was always something I wanted to do. I always had a strong passion about my religion. I think I have become a better rugby player because of it.

"I've learnt how to focus on what I want to achieve and go about it in a better way. The mission taught me how to work hard but probably the greatest thing is I've grown up a lot more."

How does Abel reconcile his teachings with the game of rugby? "When we're on the field, we're on the field - we've come to play," he said.

"If it means physicality that's the reason we play, the reason I love the game.

"But when we're off the field, it's a totally different game.

"The boys respect what I do and what I don't do. I've had a lot of them ask me about what I did. I like people asking questions and being different in a good way to be able to be an example."