THE former England, Leicester Tigers and Middlesbrough rugby player, Rory Underwood, received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Teesside University.

The accolade, which is the highest award at the university, is only ever presented to people who have completed outstanding national and international achievements of distinction.

After the university presentation last Wednesday, Mr Underwood returned to Middlesbrough Rugby Club for a reception, where he was welcomed by Bernie Coyne, his former Middlesbrough RUFC first XV captain. He has always maintained his links with Middlesbrough RUFC and frequently participates in activities at the club and with local charities.

Mr Coyne said: “Rory is a great ambassador for Rugby Union, and he has given such a lot of support to Middlesbrough RUFC over the years.”

Mr Underwood began his senior rugby career at Middlesbrough in 1980 before joining Leicester Tigers in 1983. He went on to have a brilliant international rugby career representing England on 85 occasions and holds the record for being England's leading try scorer of all time (49), as well as completing two tours for the British Lions.

He amassed 3,000 hours flying as a pilot during 18 years in the Royal Air Force.

“My five years here, I regarded as my formative years to set me up to go and play for Leicester Tigers and later England," said Mr Underwood. "When I retired, I retired and that was it, never put my boots on again. I enjoy watching now.”

Middlesbrough RUFC is about to mark its 150th anniversary next season.