The fragility of professional rugby may never have been as apparent as it is now.
The notion of life in sport being short has always been there, with one unfortunate injury always threatening around the corner, threatening to bring things to a premature end. But, in this post-pandemic world, not only blows and bruises can leave a career in the balance.
The harsh financial reality of Welsh rugby has seen squads streamlined, with several players left to take the pieces after being shown the door. Dragons’ former loyalist Adam Warren has been just one of many in recent weeks wondering what will come next.
“I would like to continue playing professional rugby, preferably in Wales, but all the teams seem tidy,” Warren told WalesOnline this week. “My agent was looking in England and France, but I now have a family, with two young boys, and my wife has a teaching job, so to make such a move, it should be just right.
“I’ve gotten enough calls from semi-professional clubs and I appreciate them all because it’s always nice to be wanted. I will probably sign up for one of those clubs, with the main thing being that I want to keep playing.
“If I go semi-professional, I have to get a job out of the game. Before I got into rugby I thought about becoming a high school teacher. I also enjoy strength and conditioning, so maybe that’s something else to think about.
“We’ll see how it goes.”
Warren probably won’t be the only one left looking for a job away from professional rugby. The importance of having a post-rugby plan remains as vital as ever.
For Warren, that would seem to be strength and conditioning. It is a well-known way.
Former Wales winger Robin Sowden-Taylor is the owner of his own gym, ION Strength and Conditioning, in Cardiff. 11-cap melee half Tavis Knoyle, who recently left the Dragons and recently joined Merthyr, runs Unit9, a gym in Neath.
In 2017, he required surgery and was told he might not recover to a point where he could play again. Facing life after rugby, he set up the gym with his wife Jolene, working 18-hour days to get it up and running.
“I had to make a decision. My back was against the wall,” he told WalesOnline in 2018. “Setting up my own gym is something I’ve always dreamed of, so I went out of my way to start this.”
Current Wales international Josh Navidi could well have followed a similar path when he retired, having previously run the family gym, Physique Health and Fitness, which is based in Brackla, Bridgend. He also did bits of personal training.
Former Arms Park teammate Gareth Anscombe is another interested in the fitness side of things. In 2019, the Ospreys fly-half set up Fitap with fellow Welsh international Alex Cuthbert.
The comparison app allows users to view different fitness facilities and classes in their local area, tailored to their needs. It also allows the user to search for mental health services.
Dominic Day’s cannabis oil company, FourFive CBD, though not strictly on the right track, has indeed come from knowing and understanding the rigors that professional rugby causes to your body. Set up with a former England lock and his then Saracens teammate, George Kruis, a day earlier said WalesOnline that “three or four hundred athletes” – from Olympics to UFC fighters – use their product.
Some players will end up staying a little closer to the sport, either in a training role or a little further away from the action as an expert.
Welsh hooker Ken Owens is someone who has already gained some experience with the latter, doing his fair share of being a TV expert while injured. The same can be said of another who commanded the Scarlets, Steff Hughes.
Although recently released by Parc y Scarlets, the former center of Wales U20s has carved a niche by offering their knowledge of Welsh language games on S4C.
As for the training path, the Welsh Rugby Union Coach Player Program has sought to coach a number of current stars into future coaches. James Hook was part of that program, taking on a training duty since hanging up his boots.
Co-internationals Justin Tipuric, Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies were also part of the scheme. Half a penny in particular had a lot of practice, helping to train Wales U20s while he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.
Some, however, want to get away from rugby altogether. Ross Moriarty has his own clothing brand, Aaron Shingler owns a development company and Jonathan Davies owns a racehorse – with Potters Corner winning the 2019 Welsh Grand National and the 2020 virtual Grand National.
A two-time Lions tourist George North is the director of Baffle Culture, a motorcycle club based in Abergavenny, while Scott Williams set up Scott Williams Motorsport in 2016. His company offers a range of services including repair, maintenance, preparation and testing of classic rally cars. before and during events.
Then there’s Scott Andrews, the backup who just hung up his boots after 13 seasons with Cardiff. In addition to the coaching work he will be doing with the club, he also has a baby clothing company – Precious Peaches – which he started with his wife in 2019.
Everything is online and the impressive website boasts a wide range of boys, girls and gender-neutral clothing.
“All the products are made by my wife,” Andrews previously told WalesOnline. “I’m trying to help advertise and market it and share it as best I can over the next six to 12 months.
“I’ve relaxed the boys a bit, but it’s nice enough to do something completely different. It pulled me out of my comfort zone a bit. I enjoy it. “
James Davies, another forced to retire this season, started his own business venture a few years ago. Called My Cubby Casethe idea was a pet travel bag specially designed to carry everything you need to take care of your pet when away from home.
Boasting a business degree, it may not be the last business Davies is involved with.
Finally, one of the logical steps for a post-rugby career is to look at food and drink – considering the target group you spent years playing with.
Liam Williams recently set up a lager company called Keeps with former Swansea City goalkeeper David Cornell, though that business is no longer going. He’s not the only one who has spotted the opportunity though, with Cardiff props Dillon Lewis and Brad Thyer having their own beverage business – albeit coffee rather than alcohol.
They set up Fat Dragon Coffee back in 2017 when they noticed that their teammates were taking an interest in coffee.
“Brad and I are sitting next to each other in the locker room and we’ve been coming up with these different ideas every morning for about two months,” Lewis told WalesOnline in a previous interview. “Then it seemed to us like the boys go to Costa every day and spend X sum for coffee and we just put two and two together.
“It was one of those things where it kind of clicked.”
Moving on to food, former Ospreys prop Ryan Bevington has been the owner of Porthcawl Butchers since 2015. Olly Kohn, who won one cap for Wales in 2013, runs the popular Jolly Hog company, making sausages and bacon as well as owning a restaurant in Bristol. .
Elsewhere in the restaurant, former Welsh backer Paul James owns the Ten 21 Bistro in Neath, while newly retired Lions hooker Richard Hibbard launched the Hideout Cafe in Aberavon shopping center back in 2019.