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Wales Online

The Wales World Cup star who quietly slipped away to do something completely different

There was no mention on Sky’s yellow-and-black breaking news ticker of Ryan Bevington packing in as a rugby player, nor did the item make it onto Huw Edwards’ desk at the BBC.

No drama.

It was just as 13-cap Wales rugby international Bevington would have wanted, to slip away quietly, without much ado.

“I didn’t want a fuss,” he says of his call to exit on-pitch proceedings last summer.

“I’d had my time as a player and decided I just wanted to try something else.

“I am who I am. I like to be known as Ryan Bevington, not as Ryan Bevington the rugby player. I was just fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time over my career. I had to work hard, but most players would say that. I have very fond memories and now that I’ve finished I can enjoy them, but at the same time I didn’t want to shout from the rooftops that I had decided to call it a day.”

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He continued: “I didn’t want rugby to define me. It’s just part of your life, a chapter when you’ve learned certain skills and developed certain relationships. That is the way I look at things generally. Each stage is like a chapter in a book. You finish one and move on to the next. There is life beyond rugby.”

Turn the clock back a decade and it probably didn’t seem that way.

Then, Bevington was viewed as having huge potential.

Explosive in the loose and able to move from 0 to 60 quicker than the car he drove when he emerged on the scene — the loosehead prop could cover 40 metres in 4.1 seconds — he was reckoned by the then Ospreys forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys to have the potential to be world-class.

There was even talk that he could turn out to be the long-term Wales successor to Gethin Jenkins.

But injuries piled up, so much so that in his final two seasons with the Ospreys Bevington made only eight appearances. There were plenty more serious bumps to follow, necessitating surgery and lengthy spells of rehab, when a player's mental strength can be tested.

Bevington isn’t bitter, though.

“I had some bad luck, but injuries happen in rugby and I was fortunate enough to play for a long time. Though I didn’t play many games for Wales, I still went through a number of campaigns with them,” he said.

“But there is always wear and tear in such a physical sport.

“The year before I finished, I’d spent on the sidelines with a knee injury. I had a full reconstruction and it took me the best part of 12 months to return to fitness. Then my knee broke down again and I needed full surgery once more.

“I knew it would be another 12 months of rehab at the age of 32. I took into account the quality of life I wanted with my children and the need to be on my feet with my business outside the game, I just thought the wise choice was to finish.

“So it was more of a mutual agreement between me and the Dragons to go our separate ways. I knew what I wanted to do.”

Bevington had long had his exit strategy in place, with the prop having taken part-ownership in a butcher’s shop in his home town of Porthcawl when he was just 26. “'I'd had an injury that kept me out for a long time and made me realise there is a life after rugby," he says.

"It’s a great career but it can be taken away from you quickly.

“I felt I had to start planning. I thought if it ended, I needed to have something to fall back on, something that would provide income from myself and my family.

“So I got involved in Porthcawl Butchers.

“I like it. It’s just nice to have more time to myself and let my body relax after all the years of battering. I pop in every day and know everyone on a personal level, including our customers, who are mostly local. The shop sponsors our local youth rugby team.

“I’ll take my turn front of house when I’m there. But there’s a manager there and I have a business partner as well. Between us, we run it.”

The former front rower hasn’t abandoned rugby completely, however, with it being well-nigh impossible to switch off after spending so many years in a squad environment.

He started guiding Porthcawl RFC’s forwards earlier this term. Now he is the head coach, with all the stresses and strains the job brings, though he tries to keep things in perspective.

“I stepped away from the game for six months, but I missed it, if not the training,” he laughed. “I missed the team element and camaraderie, helping each other achieve a common goal.

“So I got into coaching with Porthcawl. At Christmas, the club’s head coach left. It meant I was initially doing the whole gig: forwards, backs and head coach. Since then, a friend I used to play alongside jumped in to help, and the committee have asked us to carry on next season. We’re putting together a plan. It’s my hometown, my club, so I want to do my best for them.”

Who does he rate as the best player he played alongside? It doesn’t take an age for him to answer.

“Justin Tipuric,” he says. “His creativity, the way he thinks, his skills — his raw talent is something else. He could play in any position on the pitch.

Justin Tipuric scores for Wales (Wales News Service)

“It was also great to play in a side captained by Alun Wyn Jones. He’d always be there or thereabouts on any list for his leadership, the way he never stops driving standards. He never gives up, never wants to fail.

“And maybe Filo Tiatia was the player I enjoyed playing alongside the most. He just had this pure aggression, a ‘me versus you and you are not going to beat me’ mindset. He never had any fear on a rugby pitch.

“The most influential coach I had was Jonathan Humphreys.

“He was never a dictator. He’d give you the options, guide you and try to make you understand his thought processes and what he wanted to teach you. He did a lot of one-to-one coaching with me from the age of 18 until I broke into the Ospreys team properly. Every Monday morning we’d sit down and review my scrummaging, my game, my dominant tackles, my mistakes, how I could get better — proper coaching aimed at improving all aspects of my game. He helped me a lot and I still get on with him.

“He was probably the best coach I had over the years.” You can read more about Justin Tipuric here.

It is time to wind up. Bevington has stopped at a cafe to do this interview and the assumption is his coffee might be getting cold while answering questions.

But it's a good effort from the 33-year-old.

Injuries may have checked his momentum at a key stage of his career but featuring for Wales at a World Cup is something few people will ever do.

He has much to look back on with pride.