The Cat’s Tales

Mikey Rowe, host of the Catflap Chats Podcast, has met some interesting people across the 150+ episodes recorded so far. There’s plenty of fascinating stories, with guests across football, rugby union, boxing, rugby league, influencing and more. He tries to find out what it’s really like to live in that world, not only chatting about the highs, but how the guests deal with the lows too, and everything that happens away from match days and the camera.

I’ve trawled the Catflap Chats archives and delved back into one of the earlier episodes with a Welsh Rugby international. Growing up in ‘The Valleys’, they played ‘8’ as a kid, but their lack of speed moved him up to the front row. They will hate me for retelling that part of the story! He ended up in college with a huge crop of mates who later turned out as pro’s too, playing against other colleges in South Wales, with many of their opponents earning contracts with some of the other regions as well. The college system is going from strength to strength in Wales by all accounts, producing a heap of talented youngsters.

Their professional debut was Munster away, at 18/19 years of age. Pretty daunting, but came through that test, and later in the season, made their first full start against Calvisano. It was mad for them to look around and line up with the likes of Gethin Jenkins and Warburton, when only a few years before, they’d been watching them on the TV.

Tears were shed during the anthems of their Wales debut, in New Zealand vs Tonga. A proud moment, despite only getting a few minutes at the end. They felt like they’d finally cracked it, and gave them a hunger to do more.

It was funny listening to them talk about the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019. We all see what happens on the pitch and in the press, but it’s fascinating to hear what goes on behind the scenes too. Despite it being an 8 week camp, and travelling every four or five days, our guest found it really good to move around. Fresh cities, new scenery and pukka hotels. Buses, planes and trains, it keeps things interesting and you get to see a lot of the country that way.

They’ve a fair bit of time to kill, and chat A LOT of rubbish amongst themselves. Looking for good barbers in each area became a quick hobby. Who knew 18 stone men needed to keep their lid fresh every week during a tournament?! Luckily for them, one of the player’s brothers came out on holiday (they have their own salon) and sorted everyone out. He must have made a killing!

There’s big cards groups as the boys love their cards, and some lads take Playstations with them too. There was a big Call of Duty group, and FIFA too. Apparently Liam Williams and Gareth Davies are the lads to beat in CoD, and Josh Adams, Owen Watkins and Tipuric are the lads for FIFA. Apparently there’s some of the boys’ rooms that are ‘invite only’ to get in and play, such is the competition and level of gaming.

It was nice for them to have their families over, and the kids etc. However, one week everyone had their partners over, which left our guest and two other players in the squad as the only single ones . Sore thumbs and blisters from a bit of Tinder I reckon…

One of the said players shared a room with our guest for 6 or 7 of the 8 World Cup weeks. He’s a night owl, up till 1/2am each night. Our guest was asleep, woke up, and heard rustling. Not sure what it was, he looks around and sees the player (a fellow forward), sitting there with his earphones in, so he hasn’t heard our guest. Our guest turns the light on to see him sitting there with a huge bag of sweets, grubbing away in silence! You can imagine the banter that took place after that!

Things didn’t quite go to plan in 2019, but with Gatland back at the helm, hopefully the Welsh lads can put the last 6 months behind them and really pull together for what is an exciting run up to the RWC 2023 in France, where our guest will be hoping to make their mark, both in the nitty gritty of the front row, but also out wide as the aspiring ten they always thought they could be…

To listen to the podcast, search ‘Catflap Chats’ on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your Podcasts – It’s free to download and listen!, or search @catflapchatspodcast on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter