For professional players, planning for life after retirement can be tricky.

But one Scotland international has already taken active steps towards his post-playing career by qualifying as a barber.

Blair Cowan, a towering back row for London Irish recognised for his own set of flowing dark locks, has done just that and his team-mates are helping ensure he has plenty of opportunities to practice.

And instead of his usual role of trying to wrestle the ball from opposition players, it’s now snip, snip instead of strip, strip.

The changing room at the club’s Sunbury training ground is regularly transformed into Blair’s own barber shop.

More often than not, it will be hair clippings as well as mud from boots swept up off the floor at the end of a day.

comes to an end and you get to an age and stage in your career where you seriously think about what you want to do,” Cowan told BBC Sport.

“I experimented with a few things and did a few courses. But I got chatting to my barber at his shop in Surbiton one day and I enjoyed seeing his lifestyle and the craft of it.

“I asked about how to get into it and basically swept the floors for a day for him to get a feel for the trade.”

Cowan took that interest and put it into a recently-completed NVQ diploma from the London School of Barbering.

Now the New Zealand-born 32-year-old is just as likely to carry his scissors and clippers on away trips as he is his boots and playing kit.

Blair Cowan in action for London Irish

Team-mates can be found queuing up after training sessions for the chance to go #InTheChairWithBlair, with Cowan sharing some of his work on Instagram under the alias Rough Gents Barber.

“I’ve kind of bribed a lot of them into it,” he joked. “I say, ‘if you put £10 into the pot after having your haircut, it goes into our social fund’.

“The boys at this club love a social and I need the practice cutting hair, so it works out hand-in-hand.

“But, I love it because it’s the chance to get the boys in outside of , listen to some great stories, share a bit of gossip and really get to know people in down time on a different level.

“Some people don’t go for the chat, they just want to sit in silence and have their hair cut and that’s cool. But others just unload everything in their lives while in the chair and I’m happy to listen.”

The good news for Cowan is he is already getting repeat custom.

“I’ve got quite a few in the squad who’ve been back now for a second or third cut,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s because it’s cheap, but the feedback’s been good too.

“Even though I’m qualified, you’re still learning in this industry and you have to try and keep up with the styles and being sharp with the tools.

“If anything, my brothers and cousins back in Wellington have probably been my harshest critics.”

Blair Cowan played for Scotland at the last World Cup

A career as a barber may well be catching on among players with one of Cowan’s former team-mates, London Scottish scrum-half Ed Hoadley, also recently qualified.

“It’s definitely something I can see myself doing after playing,” he said. “Maybe not immediately, but certainly once I’ve set myself up properly and found my feet back home.

“The chance for a nice chilled lifestyle by the beach somewhere will hopefully allow me to open a nice little coffee shop and barbers. Get some boys in and chew the fat, play some music and put your feet up.

“We’ve got so many resources now in the game to allow us to set ourselves up for retirement.

“But, the main thing is to find something you’re interested in, that suits your personality and will motivate you to get out of bed each morning after ’s done.”

More immediately, Cowan will not only be hoping to sharpen his skills with the scissors, but also help current Championship leaders Irish cut down the rest of the competition and secure promotion back to the Premiership.