LIFE IN RUGBY
THE FORMER RICHMOND, CARDIFF BLUES, LEEDS AND GLOUCESTER PROP
A fter countless hours playing Jonah Lomu Rugby on the PlayStation at Llandovery College it was surreal to suddenly find myself sat alongside some of the stars of the game like Laurent Cabannes and Ben Clarke as a teenage prop at Richmond.
At Llandovery, we’d enjoyed an excellent couple of seasons beating the likes of Colston’s and Millfield under the coaching of Iestyn Thomas, and quite a few English clubs came in for me.
I chose Richmond because there was a large Welsh contingent – both the Quinnells and Allan Bateman to name a few. I combined playing with a degree course at Brunel University and I loved it in London. My student accommodation was a small box room at the top of a tower block but it felt like a penthouse to me.
I moved back to Wales to play for Cardiff RFC after Richmond went into administration and had four great years playing in the same front row as Dai Young, who would later become my coach.
Unfortunately, I hurt my neck in a car accident and had a year out. Then, Phil Davies took me under his wing at Leeds. The move up North was brilliant. There was a real sense of camaraderie and we were super-fit thanks to the inspirational Steve Carter.
A man-of-the-match performance against Gloucester at Headingley led to me signing for them in 2004. It was great being nearer home playing for such a great club with amazing supporters. Packing down with Patrice Collazo and Oliver Azam felt as if you were going to war, they never took a backward step.
I loved the gladiatorial atmosphere at Kingsholm and in my second season we won the European Challenge Cup after an epic game against London Irish at The Stoop. I had a bit of a purple patch in that campaign, with tries against Toulon at home and away and then a brace against Bayonne. We had a good little lineout move at the time!
Shortly after my return to Cardiff (now the Blues) I was in line for a cap against Australia in November 2006 but I got sent off for a head butt against Leicester in the Heineken Cup a few weeks beforehand and the chance was gone.
In 2010, I snapped my Achilles against Leinster in Cardiff and my professional career was over despite three operations.
It was a tough time to be honest and I turned my back on rugby. I couldn’t really watch it, finding it tough watching something I’d had taken away.
Fast forward six years, I’m taking my little boy, Freddie, to play mini rugby at Penarth RFC and after getting recognised I got asked to play for the 2nd XV to which I said No immediately. But Freddie told me he wanted to see me play and I immediately changed my mind.
I made my comeback as a No.8 initially. It was great to get the boots back on, it felt so right, and on the back of that Lee Jarvis – a good mate of mine – persuaded me to play for Merthyr in the Premiership.
Our house overlooks Cardiff Bay and you can see the Principality Stadium in the distance. My goal was to end my playing days there, in the WRU Cup final, and we were seconds away from making it but RGC 1404 beat us in the last minute of the semi at Pontypridd. It would have been a great way to bow out but sadly, wasn’t to be.
I have always had a huge passion for cars since I was a young. In fact, my first contract with Richmond was more about what car I could buy. So, in my life after rugby, I’m a director of Specialist Cars UK Ltd. I’ve also invented a product that’s currently on sale in the UK called PumpPal, a gadget that fits on all petrol pumps.