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Plenty left in the tank both on and off the field for Gill

First Team News | 17th May 2021

Rhys Gill may have used lockdown to set-up a camper van hire company as he continues to prepare for life after rugby but the experienced loose-head insists he has plenty left in the tank.

The 34-year-old has always had an entrepreneurial eye and it was an awakening moment at the beginning of his career that accelerated his business interests.

He had initially trained as a quantity surveyor but when he was let go by his home region in 2009 he was caught in a rugby wilderness.

With a six-month-old son he was feeling the pressure but that uncertainty began a journey, which has seen the prop map out an impressive career off the pitch.

“I’ve always thought it was important to have stuff going on outside rugby. I learnt the importance of that early in my career when I left Cardiff Blues in 2009. 

“There was a period where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I obviously ended up going to Saracens, and had a brilliant time, but it was a worrying time initially. I had just become a father for the first time, I had a six month old and I wasn’t sure what was next.

“That experience really solidified my desire to have things going on outside rugby and I’ve been determined to set myself up for life outside rugby ever since. You never know what is around the corner.”

As it stands, Gill and his business partner Ross Johnson - a former Cardiff Blues and Bristol Bears  hooker -  boast an impressive portfolio of interests.

They first ventured into property and later expanded with the acquisition of a flooring company, a barbers came next and now their two latest ventures - Camper Hire Wales and Front Row Van Hire.

He continued: “I came through the Blues academy with Ross and we started to get a bit of a property portfolio together. Unfortunately, he had to retire due to injury but shortly after that we had the opportunity to buy into Stores4Floors.

“We’ve also launched SoHo Barbers in Tonteg and now the two new ventures Camper Hire Wales and Front Row Van Hire. 

“We had been planning for the van hire company for a while and that was initially meant to launch first but with Covid, lockdown and the various travel restrictions, we saw the opportunity for campers. 

“The van hire went on the back burner and we got hold of two VW Transporters, which we converted into proper mobile homes. Everyone still wants to get away and while on the large part we cannot currently go abroad, there’s some amazing places on our doorstep in the UK.”

As the seven-cap international took time out of his busy schedule to do this interview, he was still on the move - travelling to pick up a third Transporter to convert - and he is already in demand within the Cardiff Blues squad.

Owen Lane recently enjoyed a trip through Snowdonia to visit former teammate and close friend Rhun Williams in Caernarfon, while fellow front-rower Brad Thyer headed west to the Gower.

Thyer, who owns and runs Fat Dragon coffee, is just one of many players within the Cardiff Blues squad with business interests outside the game. 

Around 75% of the senior group are currently engaged in business, education or a trade - from Kristian Dacey and accountancy, Ellis Jenkins and Lloyd Williams studying for an MBA at Cardiff University, or Liam Belcher, who is a qualified electrician with his own company.

That is a far cry from when Gill was taking the first steps in his career and he implores the remaining quarter of players to make the most of their spare time and the support available from the WRPA.

He continued: “When I was studying for my degree everything was very structured and rigid. It was all around rugby where as today, the is much more flexibility and clubs see the benefit of developing well rounded individuals. They realise that it is beneficial for everyone for a player to have other avenues and interests.

“Rugby still has to come first but everyone now works together for the best solution and there’s a lot mote balance.

“On the whole there’s a completely different mindset now, the WRPA are doing a brilliant job and it’s brilliant or the boys.

“A lot of younger players don’t realise how much time they have and how quickly it goes. It feels like yesterday that I was sat there in their position, playing table tennis, pool and what have you, wasting all the time you have. 

“But it really does fly by and all of a sudden you’ll be at the end of your career wondering what’s next.

“You are only ever one injury from finishing. There are loads of boys who have come through, finished and not known what to do. Rugby isn’t like football where it sets you up for life, you have to plan ahead.”

And while Gill is clearly in the latter stages of his playing career, he has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet.

He has another year on his current contract and is determined to shift to top gear once more. The past two seasons have been littered with injuries but the European Champions Cup winner is finally back fit, firing and fuelled by frustration.

“It’s been pretty frustrating and really stop start,” added Gill. 

“In the final week of pre-season, I ruptured my bicep and was out for three months. I came back, trained a couple of weeks and played one game and was out again for 10 weeks with my calf.

“So it’s good to be back now and I’m feeling good - I definitely feel like I have plenty left in the tank. 

“I’m feeling good and definitely feel like I have plenty left in the tank. I have another year on my contract so hopefully next year I can continue helping the young boys come through. 

“There’s a lot of potential here and they try to keep me young. Corey Dom is doing well, Rhys Carré is obviously an international, these boys are the future and I want to develop and bring them on.

“For myself, I just want to get through these next few weeks in the Rainbow Cup unscathed and have a big pre-season to give me the best possible shot at having a really good 2021-22.”

This player feature originally featured in the Cardiff Blues official matchday programme for the recent Rainbow Cup clash against Dragons Rugby. All programmes are available digitally, for free, and in the most recent edition you can read more exclusive content including a chat with British and Irish Lion, Josh Adams, Olly Robinson revisits a classic derby encounter and former Cardiff and Wales full back, Justin Thomas, chats through his role in the pathway. Available to read NOW!