World Cup winner, one-club man and codebreaker – it is easy to see why Ben Kay has been inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame.
The 6ft 6in second row was affectionately nicknamed “M’lud” throughout his career thanks to his father being Lord Justice of Appeal Sir John William Kay.
But Kay was always destined for a career in rugby after he first picked up a ball playing mini rugby for Waterloo in his native Liverpool.
He joined Leicester in 1999 and later became a regular in the Tigers and England squads.
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Playing alongside Martin Johnson and Fritz van Heerden, Kay developed into the player that earned 62 England caps, as well as two British & Irish Lions Test appearances.
At Welford Road, Kay enjoyed an incredibly successful period, winning six Premiership titles, as well back-to-back European crowns in 2001 and 2002.
The beginning of his international career started with the England A team in a match against France A in Blagnac in 2000 and his performances led to a call-up for England’s successful Tour of North America and Japan in the summer of 2001, making his debut against Canada.
Kay was named as the Tigers Members’ Player of the Year 2001-02, and was a nominee for the Premiership Rugby Player of the Year.
At the 2003 World Cup in Australia, the lock may be best remembered for his knock-on in the final against the hosts while close to the try-line.
However, aside from being regarded as one of the most highly-rated middle line-out jumpers in world rugby, his role in that team was far subtler than that.
Ahead of the pool game in Perth against South Africa, Kay learned to count to ten in Afrikaans so that he could break the code and pick up their lineout calls.
Two years after the World Cup triumph, Sir Clive Woodward selected him for the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. Kay came off the bench against Argentina in an official Test prior to the tour and then started in the first Test of the series.
In 2007, Kay was one of only four players – alongside Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Robinson and Phil Vickery – to start in successive World Cup finals for England. Unfortunately, this time it was not to be for England and Kay as they were on the wrong end of a 15-6 defeat by South Africa.
After spending 11 years with Leicester Tigers, Kay decided to hang his boots up at the end of the 2009-10 season.
Looking back on his career with the Tigers, Kay said: “I’ve played alongside some legends of the game with Leicester and I have some great memories of my time with the club.
“Welford Road, in particular, has been very good to me and I’ve enjoyed so many great occasions at the stadium over the years.”
But he was not out of the game for long as Kay swapped the line-out for the gantry, taking a career working as a co-commentator and pundit for the likes of ESPN, ITV and BT Sport, as well as joining the board of directors at Tigers in 2014.