Family First Is More Than A Slogan . . . It’s What Welsh Rugby Success Is Built On

When Warren Gatland says family comes first for the players in his Wales squad, he means it.

I know the work that Warren’s wife, Trudi, puts in to make sure every partner of every player feels involved, how fathers and mothers are included, and how this large extended family supports those who are out on the field.

Trudi Gatland and the Welsh Rugby Union’s Caroline Morgan are the women at the head of this particular family. They’re the matriarchs. They organise, arrange and take care of every detail. They are the head of the team behind the team.

As Gareth was first capped in 2015, I’ve been around the group of players’ partners for some time. I’ve been there to celebrate some special achievements, I’ve seen some huge disappointments, and I’ve a shared experience of those dark moments, especially when Gareth has been battling to come back from injuries.

As there are only four regions in Wales, everyone knows everyone, and friendships are easily made. I know from the partners and families of other national teams that they’re not all as involved and embraced as the families in Wales. So, we are very lucky.-

This World Cup is in a fortunate location as it means families can either make the whole trip to France, or else drop back and forth around the matches.

Match day is organised in a similar way to the game days during a Six Nations. Families meet up with the players at the team hotel about an hour or so before they leave for the stadium.We have food and drinks, clap all the boys onto the team bus, and then travel in our own sort of ‘squad’ to the stadium. We sit and watch the games together as a group and then meet up with the players again afterwards.

With two young children – Teifi, who’s just turned three and her brother, Theo, who’s 14 months – it’s a little more complicated, but thankfully I have fantastic in-laws, who support me equally as I try to juggle my property management company, Home Host.

I suppose, in a sense, the involvement of players’ families so fully is a recognition of how important those partners and family members are in supporting the players who wear the red shirt out on the field. It can be very difficult when you see your husband go through his low moments around this sport.

Results and selection are the normal up and downs of any professional sportsman, but the effect of injuries is something where every player needs to know that someone close to them is there for them. It’s certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Gareth over the past few years. As a wife, and a family, we very much go on that ride with him.

With Gareth’s knee injury, he had setbacks where he thought he could see light at the end of a very long tunnel and then it was taken away from him.

Mentally, it can be very tough when you think someone is only a couple of months away from their target and then suddenly it’s another 10, or 12 months away. We’ve had some difficult conversations. But he always felt that emotionally he still had the strength to carry on, even when his body was letting him down, leaning on the love and support of the people around him.

We are both people with a positive outlook. He has had some fantastic successes, like winning Grand Slams with Wales and European trophies with Cardiff.

It’s funny. As someone so close to it, the highs almost feel to me like a relief. I want him to have those triumphs and successes because it feels like a reward for all the tough times.

Last summer, Gareth wasn’t going to tour South Africa because I was due to give birth to Theo. I made him get on that plane. I told him: this is a family decision, because of what we have all gone through. You need to be on that plane. I gave birth 15 minutes after he landed, he met Theo over the phone, and then he went on to kick the winning conversion as Wales beat the Springboks for the first time ever in South Africa.

Those are the highs and hopefully there will be a few more of them.