Being Chairman of the WRU means you have to please a lot of people, in fact the whole of Wales. The Scene caught up with Gareth Davies at The Principality Stadium, to see how he’s settling into his role and what the future holds.
What would you say was your most memorable moment in your playing career?
I suppose it depends what stage of life you’re at. The first would be winning a Sevens tournament at eleven years of age. The second is winning the UAU rugby tournament with Cardiff University, the first Welsh University to win it. Then the obvious ones, your Welsh first cap and getting on the Lions tour – so there isn’t one answer.
What was it like being picked for the Lions tour?
I suppose that’s the pinnacle of your career. Being the best of the best in the UK. Thing is, I was a bit injury prone so in the first game I bust my shoulder and missed the first test. Then I got back for the second test but ruptured my knee ligaments, so I had to come home. I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest moment but it’s definitely the greatest achievement of my career.
Did you have a rugby idol when you were growing up?
I was a big Llanelli fan and there were three players that I looked up to. As a child, my uncle used to take me down to Stradey Park and I thought Dai Watkins, the Welsh outside half in those days, was brilliant. I think I cried when he went to Rugby League! Then Barry John came along, but he left for Cardiff to be followed by Phil Bennett – so 3 idols.
What would be the top three tips you’d tell your 11 year old self?
From a sporting point of view, I’d say to try your hand at everything. I know it’s more difficult today as kids are forced to do rugby or football at such an early age – everything has become a lot more focussed and professional and at an early age.
What are the WRU doing to encourage young children to get into the game?
We employ about 100 school club officers that the WRU and schools contribute towards. It’s their job to set up fixtures between schools, helping to encourage rugby and ensuring kids have the opportunity to play. It means schools that didn’t have a team, now have regular games.
There are also a lot of academies in Wales now for kids who want to develop. I know some people aren’t fans of encouraging performance too early. If you don’t push them down this pathway they may miss out on a contract. It’s pretty serious stuff at a very early age.
What advice would you give people in sport nearing the end of their career?
It’s a tough one these days. We’re laying on a post career pathway, trying to get the players to do something voluntary in the sense of a future career. We’re also putting the guys through psychological testing, to see what makes them tick and discover what they’d like to do in the future.
When you finished the game, did you know what you wanted to do?
I didn’t really have future goals when I was younger because we were marrying up playing and working. During the day I’d be working in the bank, then playing rugby in the evenings and weekends. I don’t think that did me any harm because it taught me how to manage myself.
I’m a competitive animal, I’ve always wanted to be the best I could. I’ve also been very lucky, but I believe you make your own luck. People said that I was mad leaving BBC Sport to join Cardiff Rugby Club, but it worked out alright. I just think that the more moves you make, the more opportunities come that present themselves. For example, I gave up my post as Director of Royal Mail in Cardiff and moved to Australia for a fraction of my income. But then, by moving to Sydney I got headhunted for a great job back in the UK – now I wouldn’t have had that job if I’d still been in Cardiff because it was the Chairman of the Australasia head-hunters that put my name forward. So the message is, if you just stay in one place that’s fine, but I believe you’ll find more opportunities if you move around. People think I’ve got it all mapped out. Trusted me I haven’t!
It must have felt a great honour becoming chairman of the WRU, what’s it like since you took over?
The circumstances under which I got the job weren’t great. At the time I was working with the Dragons, then there was a great civil war with the Union. Although I wasn’t right in the middle of the debate, I did a number of TV interviews on behalf of the regions. By virtue of this, people thought I should get involved in the Union. So I agreed to put my name forward, purely to get a representative from the regions on the board of the Union, because there wasn’t one. Then suddenly I end up as Chairman!
Yes, it was difficult at first but luckily I knew a lot of faces in the organisation, one or two who were around when I was playing. So it’s been good, but it’s also a real challenge because you’ve got so many layers of people to keep happy – National Team, the professional game and of course the Community clubs together with all the Welsh supporters. All equally passionate. At the moment we are trying to make some governance changes just to make the organisation more streamlined and more united. Being on the board of other external organisations like Lions, 6 Nations, World Rugby and Rugby World Cup gives me a good idea of what’s happening globally.
If you hadn’t ended up being the Chairman of WRU, what else would you have liked to do?
I’d probably be a good golfer by now. Honestly, I don’t think there’s one answer to that. Whether it’s consciously or by fate, I’ve always come back to sport, where oddly enough I consciously made an effort to get away from sport, not to be pigeonholed.
Are the similarities between the Rugby World and business world?
Yes. Hard work, integrity, and being a team member – some of those ingredients are very similar. Also, the way you behave and respect each other. All sport is good for that, but I still think rugby has more values than many other sports.
You have been a client of Thomas Carroll Club Signature for some time, how have you found working with them?
It’s been excellent, especially having one point of contact which makes a big difference. Thankfully I’ve only had one claim, which was losing my watch when at the gym. The process was very quick and simple, I phoned Claire at Thomas Carroll and she sorted out everything and organised a replacement watch. That was great service!
They look after me well. For example, I bought Fiona, my wife, some earrings recently and all I had to do was make a quick call and give Claire the value. That’s the convenience bit, cover is arranged straight away.
What would you say is your most prized possession?
One of the few things I’ve got left from my parents is a large leather-bound Bible. But it wasn’t the Bible itself that was interesting, but what was inside. I found personal things written about my family I didn’t know about, because back in the old days people didn’t talk about personal things. It’s probably an antique by now too and it’s something that just can’t be replaced.
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