The Rugby Paper - - Feature - GARY POW­ELL - as told to Jon Newcombe

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.

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