FOUNDERS COLUMN: The Rugby World Cup Is A Chance For Me To Finally Live Out My Dream

It’s a bit of a sporting cliché, but for me it’s an absolute truth: when it comes to the Rugby World Cup, I have unfinished business.

I played in the 2015 tournament, when I was only 24 years old. But it wasn’t quite the role I had in mind.

I had moved to Wales from New Zealand the year before, with the dream of making a big impact in that tournament, but I picked up an ankle injury and I ended up playing in just two matches.

In 2019, I was playing well and feeling confident of making more of the opportunity. We played a warm-up game against England at Twickenham, half an hour had gone, and then I felt my knee suddenly pop.

The outcome of that was a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, the bleakest two years of my rugby career, and, of course, another World Cup passing me by.

So, yeah, you could say I’m pretty keen to make the 2023 version.

Touch wood, things are looking okay so far. I’ve come back from a shoulder injury that undermined a whole big chunk of last season and I’m feeling fit, fresh, and eager to play more rugby.

There are more hurdles to overcome yet, like getting through the rest of the training camps, gaining final selection, and those two warm-up Tests against England and then South Africa.

After that, we finally get out to France.

I’ve learned to take nothing for granted in this game, to be grateful for health and fitness, and whatever comes beyond that is a bonus.

When sport is your livelihood and you are injured, then it’s inevitable there will be doubts that creep into your mind.

I went through all that and there’s no doubt my injuries made me feel vulnerable. You worry about the future and whether your career will continue in the way you’d planned.

This summer, I had come to the end of my contract with the Ospreys and there was no offer of a new deal.

Maybe that’s not surprising, because of the financial mess the domestic game is in. But it all adds to the sense of vulnerability and not being in control.

Thankfully, I was always open-minded about my future and now I’ve signed to play in Japan for Suntory Sungoliath, I’m really looking forward to the next stage.

It was a relief to get everything sorted and it’s going to be a real honour to play for one of the biggest clubs in Japan after the World Cup is over.

Family-wise, it will mean some adjustment but my wife is really supportive and between us we’ll make it work.

But that’s later in the year. For now, it’s the World Cup that’s on my mind.

The training is hard, the squad has had its withdrawals, but the spirit in the group is good and the bonds between players are getting stronger all the time.

When the time comes, the boys will be ready.