I am a huge rugby fan. My performances on the pitch were only good enough to get me into the Kingston Polytechnic Rams RFC 4th XV, but my motivational skills (or some say my vocal prowess) gave me the honour of captaining the side. However, I found my true love of the game holding a whistle. I refereed junior rugby for many years and could write a book about my experiences in the lower tiers of Welsh valley rugby.
So when I became a photographer and was asked to photograph a hospitality event where ex-rugby players were speaking, I literally jumped at the chance. This was a dream come true. Often, as I stand in a room listening and photographing ex-players that I idolised, I have to pinch myself. And with the 2019 Rugby World Cup starting today, I thought it would be good to look back and pick out some of my favourite photos from rugby hospitality events and dinners over the past few years.
Celebrating Wales Rugby Grand Slam 2019
In May 2019, The Events Room held a dinner at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cardiff to celebrate the Wales Six Nations Grand Slam success of 2019. The host, Sean Holley, was joined by Wales stars Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Hadleigh Parkes and Justin Tipuric. During the Q&A, the players were very open and honest about life in the Wales camp. This was a true team that encompassed the backroom staff and the players in one solid bond. Suddenly, I found myself believing that this Grand Slam winning group of players were destined for greater things. That this team could win the Rugby World Cup.
Jonathan Davies Tribute
The Welsh Charitables RFC held a special tribute dinner for one of my rugby heroes, Jonathan Davies OBE. I watched the first Rugby World Cup in my student digs in Kingston-upon-Thames as I ‘studied’ for my final Geology degree exams. The combination of rugby and exams was not a good one. However, for a Welsh rugby supporter, 1987 will always be special. Jonathan Davies was a pivotal part of a team that would secure third place by beating Australia. An incredible achievement at a time when Wales rugby was struggling to deal with the move towards the professional era. In my opinion, Jonathan Davies is one of the best rugby players (union and league) that I have ever seen. His speed, balance and awareness made him so difficult to tackle. Simply a wonderful evening listening to one of my heroes.
Remembering Wales 2008 Grand Slam
The annual Concrete Society Rugby Lunch, raising funds for the Wooden Spoon charity, is always special. In 2018, host Sean Holley was joined by members of the 2008 Grand Slam winning Wales team. I was in the stadium alongside my Dad as Lee Bryne, Ryan Jones, Tom Shanklin, Martyn Williams and their team mates beat France 29-12 to win their second Grand Slam in 3-years. It was an incredible moment. The banter between the four players on stage was fantastic, with great stories from another year of Wales rugby success.
Six Nations Rugby Lunch with Rob Jones
Prior to the Wales vs England Six Nations game in Cardiff in 2019, Legends Hospitality held a pre-match dinner in Cardiff. The main guest was Rob Jones, the scrum-half who played for Wales and the British and Irish Lions. Rob also featured in the 1987 Rugby World Cup, throwing long spinning passes from scrums and break-downs to Jonathan Davies that gave Jiffy the space to do his magic. Rob had some great stories to tell which included the infamous clash with Nick Farr-Jones in the second British & Irish Lions test against Australia in 1989.
I’ve been very lucky to have met and photographed some of my rugby heroes. There are many more than I could include on the list such as Warren Gatland, Phil Bennett, Gareth Llewellyn and the magical Shane Williams. I just wonder whether this Wales squad are destined to become legends in this year’s Rugby World Cup. My heart tells me they do. Cymru am byth!
Paul Fears is an industrial and commercial photography based in South Wales. For more information or to discuss a specific photography project, please contact Paul on:
Tel: 07909 103789 or 01443 207773