Tough-tackling Dan Lydiate was at the heart of the Lions team that recently won the series in Australia. Rhian Price asks him how he juggles rugby with farming
Describe your family farm
It’s a 202ha hill farm in mid Wales and we lamb 600-650 improved Welsh sheep. My brother and I are the fifth generation on the farm from my mother’s side of the family.
What’s you favourite childhood memory of growing up on a farm?
Everyone pitching in and helping each other to get the work done in busy times, like at harvest, lambing and shearing. Then at the end of the day having a nice big meal made by my mother when we all sat down to eat knowing the job’s done.
What will you do when you finish your rugby career?
My plans have always been to move back to the farm and hopefully, planning permitting, I’d like to build a house and start farming. We have Welsh sheep now and maybe I’ll introduce a different breed that’s more productive and has low input costs. I might start a herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus or Welsh Blacks. I am also hoping to start a small contracting business in hedge trimming and maybe cutting grass verges.
You were named Six Nations’ player of the tournament in 2012 when Wales won the Grand Slam and recently played in the British and Irish Lions squad that beat Australia 16-41. What’s been the highlight of your career?
“Farming and rugby are alike, especially the manual jobs. You find yourself in awkward positions trying to lift or push things and also catch animals and in rugby where you have to do similar things.”
Being a Lion has always been my ultimate goal and to have captained the Lions was a massive honour and being part of a winning series is the icing on the cake.
You’re renown for your formidable defence – did the farmyard prepare you for the pitch?
Yes it has helped – farming and rugby are alike, especially the manual jobs. You find yourself in awkward positions trying to lift or push things and also catch animals and in rugby where you have to do similar things.
Which one of your Wales teammates would you take home to the farm to help you and why?
Sam Warburton because he’s very squeamish and I need to toughen him up.
Which one wouldn’t you ask and why?
Probably one of the pretty-boy backs.
Why are you moving to Racing Metro in France, and will you miss not being able to go to the farm so often?
I’ve been at the same club for seven years so it was time for a change and experience a different way of life. Also, the [Racing Metro] team has recruited a strong squad and they have big plans to be successful and I want to be a part of something like that. The main thing to improve as a player. I will miss not being able to pop back to the farm as much, but when I am able to get back hopefully it will be for longer periods not just a day here and there.
What was the farming topic of conversation between you and Sean O’Brien while on tour in Australia?
Sean has beef cattle so it was nice to talk about how their farm systems work. All farmers are nosey, too, so we talked about what machinery we both have. There were a few farmers on tour who I enjoyed chatting to, Rory Best who started an Angus beef herd a few years back and Tom Youngs who has an arable farm. It was nice to talk about something other than rugby with boys from different nations.
It’s been one of the toughest years in living memory for many farmers. What’s been the biggest challenge you and your family have faced?
The weather has been shocking and we really suffered during lambing. It wasn’t the best lambing for us, but you put it down to one of those years where everyone was in the same boat and you can’t do anything about the weather, you just have to plod on and hope for a better year next year. It usually evens out.
Dan Lydiate and the Lions in Australia
If you go back home to farm, what would you like to achieve?
I need to not spread myself too thin so I’ll keep stock stock at a level that I can manage. My parents have done a really good job with the environmental schemes – hedging, fencing and being organic – so I’d like to just keep on improving the farm slowly and keep trying to make it as efficient as possible. Farming is a nice way of life and a nice environment to raise a family in,
What attributes do you look for in a girlfriend? Does she have to be prepared to get her hands dirty?
Hard question. I’m engaged now, my fiancée is not from a farming background but enjoys it when we go back to the farm. It’s a difference way of life to the one she’s used to, but she tries her best bless her.
What do you see as the biggest threat to Welsh farming – and do you think it has a bright future?
Everyone is unsure how CAP reform will pan out so is just treading water at the minute because of the uncertainty. Hopefully it will be sorted in the near future but it is worrying a lot of people. I’d like to think farming has a positive future – with the world population growing we’re going to need farms to be producing more and more. Hopefully the government will realise this and help farmers boost production which will have a knock-on effect and boost the economy.
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