Where Are They Now | Rhys Gill
If you are looking for the busiest rugby player in the world then Rhys Gill is going to be a candidate. As well as continuing as a player at Cardiff Rugby, he is also preparing the way for the next phase of his working life by running no fewer than three businesses.
If you need a new floor, then call ‘Stores4Floors’; if you want a new adventure then try ‘Camper Hire Wales’ and drive off with in a camper van; or if you need a new hairstyle, head to ‘Soho Barbers’ in Pontypridd.
All three companies are in the Gill and Ross Johnston, an ex-front row pro, ever-expanding business stable. Now 34, and with his contract running out at Cardiff at the end of the season, Gill has been preparing the way for his transition out of rugby.
“I’ve had an eye on what I’m going to do when I hang up my boots for some time. It was a lesson that I learned at Saracens and is something I’m really grateful for,” he said.
“I’ve seen so many players spend 18 months or more grappling with what to do next with their lives after ending their rugby careers. For some it is like falling off the edge of a cliff and it can be very difficult to go from earning a six-figure salary one month to getting nothing the next.
“Saracens were always so encouraging of their players to think ahead in their lives and to plan for a future after rugby. That’s why you see so many of the players of my era doing well with some interesting business ventures.
“George Kruis and Dom Day set up their well-being company, ‘fourfive’. Brad Barritt started ‘Tiki Tonga Coffee’ and Chris Wyles and Alastair Hargreaves launched ‘Woolfpack Lager’. There are other examples as well and it just proves the value of those motivational talks we used to receive from legends like Shane Warne and Michael Johnson on how to prepare for rugby’s afterlife.
“I was never one to sit around and drink coffee and play cards. I prefer to fill my day with things that can make a difference in my life.
“I know things are going to change dramatically for me when I stop playing, but at least I know now there will be plenty to do next year.”
In many ways, Rhys never really left Saracens. The former Wales and current Cardiff Rugby loose head spent seven years as a member of the ‘Wolfpack’ and keeps in regular touch with old teammates via a WhatsApp group.
He’ll also be at the annual gathering of the Saracens front row club at Christmas – “we do invite a few backs” – and still counts many of his former team mates among his best friends.
It was quite a step for the Treorchy-born prop to leave home and take his chance at Saracens in 2006. He had just been told by then Cardiff Blues head coach, Dai Young, that there was nothing for him at the Welsh capital club.
A Wales U21 cap, his initial thought was to join Neath, but then fellow countryman Michael Owen, playing at Sarries, mentioned his name to Cobus Visagie, scrum doctor with the ‘Men in Black’. He made his Blues league debut against Munster at Thomond Park in May, 2016, and off the back of that performance got snapped up by Saracens.
“Cobus took a look at the tape of that game and gave my opposite number, BJ Botha, a call to see how I got on. I was given a chance, had a good pre-season and things just took off for me from there,” he added.
“Saracens made me, my wife and then my young family feel so welcome at the club and going to work was always a pleasure and a privilege. I’m proud to have played in the first Saracens team to win the Premiership title as well as the A League crown – and I also scored a try in a Heineken Cup win over the Ospreys at Wembley!
“But perhaps the stand-out moment for me was the 12 day tour to Miami in 2011. We trained a couple of days, but for the rest of the time it as the biggest and best bonding session any rugby club has ever embarked on.
“Special moments inspired by a very special club, and times I will never forget. I’ve enjoyed being back home in Wales and playing for the Blues, but I’ll never forget the life lessons I learned at Sarries.”
Rhys Gill’s Saracens Dream Team:
15 Alex Goode
14 Chris Wyles
13 Duncan Taylor
12 Owen Farrell
11 Dave Strettle
10 Charlie Hodgson
9 Neil de Kock
1 Mako Vunipola
2 Schalk Brits
3 Carlos Nieto
4 George Kruis
5 Steve Borthwick
6 Wikus van Heerden
7 Jacques Burger
8 Billy Vunipola