Oval Talk

Tindall lifts lid on England, and how he – and Zara – cope with media scrutiny

Oval Talk

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EXCLUSIVE! Former England captain Mike Tindall talks about club, country, fatherhood and dealing with a different side to the press than your average rugby player faces.

Gloucester centre Tindall’s biggest successes have been with England, starting the 2003 World Cup final win over Australia, and going on to be captain.

The 35-year-old hasn’t played for his country since the 2011 World Cup, but remains a keen supporter. And, after Stuart Lancaster’s young team made waves at the Six Nations, he predicts a bright future for England, starting with the upcoming tour of New Zealand and, of course, hosting the 2015 World Cup.

“I think this summer will be very tough because of how it has been organised. It’s not ideal preparation in terms of what Stuart would want. They are missing a fair bulk of first-team players for the first Test, naming 10 uncapped players in the training squad, and have a Barbarians game to deal with.

“Still, I have been so impressed with how they’ve developed. In a way the injuries have allowed them to experiment and they’ve found a really nice balance with Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell blending in.

“And, of course, Mike Brown has been a revelation at full-back. There’s a real balance with the backline able to develop a strong attacking game; you know what you get with Chris Ashton and the other tried-and-tested internationals, but the pool of players Stuart can trust has grown.

“There are some exciting prospects for the future. Sam Burgess coming over from League is a complete unknown, but if he takes to the game like a duck to water we could have an incredible player. Kyle Eastmond is a work in progress and can only get better; Christian Wade won’t feature this summer through injury but we all know what he can do; Anthony Watson could make the step up in his absence; and Henry Trinder can push on next year.

“Still, I think New Zealand is too soon for anything spectacular. I don’t think they can win all three Tests, but – with 500 days or so until the World Cup – one win and two close matches will be positive. But the fantastic mentality Lancaster has brought to the squad means they will aim and expect to win every game."

In addition to his rugby career, Tindall is well known to the British public for his relationship and subsequent marriage to eventing star Zara Phillips, granddaughter of the Queen.

As a result, the spotlight has been more intense on Tindall than it ordinarily would for a rugby player, with only Danny Cipriani facing a similar level of scrutiny.

Recent fatherhood has added another element to the media mix, but Tindall – and Phillips – have taken it all in their stride.

“We’ve always dealt with it quite well. It’s lessened too. I think it’s harder for Danny as he has usually been in London and there’s a lot more interest because people want to see you out, going to clubs et cetera.

“In Gloucester you don’t often get that! You just get on with it! My first role is always that of a rugby player. The stuff that gets in way of training and playing – you don’t do them, unless it’s part of the job.

“Zara and myself both do sports and both do sports that can be dangerous - so you have to respect and be prepared for them. In that sense sport has always come first – you do nice things off the back of that, but it’s a quiet life as much as it can be.

“I focus on what to get right for Saturday and it takes you out of the firing line. And that’s all you can do. Zara’s the same in that her horses come first. There are certain things you have to do – working with online Forex trader UFX and Artemis fund management in my case – as they’re part of the job.

“But apart from that it’s all about the sport, and taking that attitude helps you stay out of the limelight. If you’re photographed out at 3am and play poorly on Saturday people are going to link the two.

“You try and stay out of the limelight, which hasn’t always happened with me, but it has been rare!”

In January this year, Tindall and Phillips had their first child, Mia Grace. That has also had an impact on their lives, but Tindall does not feel it will necessarily have an impact on whether he plays on into his 36th year.

“Of course it changes everything. There’s more to life than yourself and the wife – you have got to think about the future a lot more seriously: school fees, weddings and the like. They become more of a focus than yourself and you balance it with sport, which is more about managing yourself.

“Having Mia Grace pushes the focus a little bit, as she becomes the priority – she sits at the top of the tree and you work your way down in level of importance.

“But my best man Iain Balshaw had his kids when he was 24 – and he managed to maintain his success at rugby. It’s personal, you have to balance what you need. With us it was always about timing, what was good for me and Zara with World and European Championships.

“We waited until we found a window that suited us, and we were lucky enough to find that and be able to achieve it. It depends on yourself. Sometimes people don’t plan things but I don’t think there’s a perfect age – this was perfect for us, but it works differently for other people.

“Being a little bit older gives you that experience, in that you know where you’re going later in life, but younger guys are given focus by fatherhood, a wake-up call that there’s more to life than rugby.”

Currently combining coaching with playing for his club, Tindall is considering his future on the pitch, but is ultimately leaving the decision in Gloucester’s hands.

“I’ve really enjoyed the last two years. Gloucester gave me the opportunity as I didn’t know what I was going to do two years ago.

“Nigel Davies gave me option to coach and play as I didn’t think I was done on the pitch. I really enjoyed it, and it was an eye opener as I have really learned a lot by playing and coaching together.

“While ultimately it could be my last year playing, I still want to play for another season off the back of how I’ve played. I’m still desperate to win something with Gloucester as every one of the last nine years I felt we could be in contention.

“I love club rugby but have not been able to match my success with England in terms of winning titles, with the exception of the LV= Cup. That 2007-08 season, where we led the Premiership and lost in the final, makes me believe that we still have what it takes to win the Premiership or European Cup.

“At the same time I have to be realistic though – it might not be in the club’s interests to keep me on. I’m a 35-year-old centre and I have to be realistic and up front about it.

“We’re still in talks. If the club decides I should stop playing then hopefully there’ll be a full-time coaching role. I’ve always been able to come to an agreement but it’s usually late in the day.”

With Davies departing as director of rugby this week, Gloucester are in a holding period until a new boss is appointed. Either way, Tindall says he will not play on if Gloucester decide not to retain him on their playing staff.

“I would not play at another club. My heart is where my home is, to reverse the saying. I wouldn’t go off and look for one year somewhere else – I've been very lucky with two clubs I’ve played for, which have been very close to my heart.”

Mike Tindall is an ambassador for award-winning online trading platform UFXMarkets. To find out more about their commodity, currency, CFD, and indices markets please visit http://www.ufxmarkets.co.uk/. To watch behind the scenes footage of an UFX advert Mike shot recently, click here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VJ_rBNcAms)

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Mike Tindall was speaking to @Reda_Eurosport

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