Rugby heaven at Hay

The rugby journalist, Carolyn Hitt, was accompanied by some of Welsh sports’ most prominent names. Sam Warburton – who holds the record for the most appearances as Wales’ captain – was joined by one of rugby’s most accomplished and experienced referees, Nigel Owens. The panel was completed by the head of the WRU, Martyn Phillips.

A prominent talking-point was Warburton’s decision to retire from rugby, but he claimed that it was a relatively easy decision.

He said, “I was at a point where I felt completely ready to finish. The risk of playing rugby didn’t outweigh the reward of having a good-quality family life.”

In a revealing discussion, Warburton disclosed that he mostly supports the proposed decisions to restructure international rugby. Also, Nigel Owens confessed his belief that Wales would have won the World Cup in 2011 had they reached the final against New Zealand.

Phillips, head of the WRU,  spoke of his pride in witnessing the team’s current success.

He said, “We’re a small nation; we’re not going to be the best at very much. We’re second in the world which gives us a spring in our step.”

Closing the talk, the panel analysed Warren Gatland’s legacy, and Warburton revealed what he missed most from his playing days.  Nigel Owens considers Gatland as one of rugby’s finest coaches.

The referee said, “What he’s achieved and the success that he’s brought to Wales is huge.”

Warburton said, “What I miss most about rugby is that élite team environment when you’re all going in the same direction.”

If you are interested in sport, also see Ian Robertson talk about rugby at 8.30 pm, 31 May. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally, please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.

Pictured L-R: Sam Warburton, Nigel Owens, Martyn Phillips, Carolyn Hitt. 

Photo by Morgan Williams