English Rugby
From the beat to the big screen
Jo Carter, ESPN.co.uk
February 3, 2011
England lock Martin Bayfield claims a lineout, England v Canada, Twickenham, England, December 10, 1994
Martin Bayfield has turned his hand to after-dinner speaking, acting an presenting © Getty Images

Wales' 50-10 defeat at the hands of England in 2002 may be their most painful defeat in recent memory, but failing to register a single point against your fiercest rivals is a different kind of low.

The last time Wales failed to get on the scoreboard against England was back in 1992 as the home side cruised to a 24-0 win at Twickenham to continue an unbeaten year and help them on their way to their first back-to-back Grand Slams since 1924.

Under the leadership of captain Will Carling it was a dominant time for English rugby and an ever-present member of the side was lock Martin Bayfield, whose partnership with Wade Dooley formed the keystone of the pack.

Having narrowly missed out on a place in England's 1991 Rugby World Cup squad on home turf, Bayfield later established himself in the England side and also formed an intimidating partnership with current England coach Martin Johnson. The 1992 Five Nations was Bayfield's first, and he admits it took him some time to find his feet.

"Although it was special to win a Grand Slam in my first full season with England, I think the Slam in 1995 meant more to me because by that time I was established in the England team and I felt like I was playing better rugby," he said. "In 1992 I didn't have a clue what I was doing."

Bayfield went on to secure 31 England caps, make three appearances for the British & Irish Lions on tour to New Zealand in 1993, win two Grand Slams and reach the 1995 World Cup semi-final. But his career was cut short when he suffered a neck injury in February 1998, landing awkwardly during a Northampton Saints training session.

"I had an operation but had no choice but to retire," he recalls. "That was tough. The game had just gone professional and I had left my job in the police. I had been playing rugby since I was eight years old and there I was 31 and suddenly a big part of my life was missing.

"I had had no opportunity to prepare for retirement - played against Gloucester on the Saturday before. I still have all my kit - I didn't keep it for any sentimental reason but I just didn't want to throw it all away. It takes a while to readjust to real life - but I had three young children and had to find something to do."

After a spell coaching with Saints' academy, Bayfield began to expand his repertoire - turning his hand to writing, broadcasting, after-dinner speaking, as well as working with sports PR agency ENS and becoming an honorary president of rugby charity Wooden Spoon. Having appeared on TV shows such as The Weakest Link and Ready, Steady, Cook, Bayfield has also presented the World's Strongest Man competition.

"Rugby players like to think they are big and strong," Bayfield said. "But these guys are incredible - when you see them lifting 200 kilos over their heads. Not many people could do that."

"I had had no opportunity to prepare for retirement - played against Gloucester on the Saturday before. I still have all my kit."

At 6 foot 10 inches, Bayfield made a daunting presence on the beat, the pitch and most recently on the big screen as Hagrid's body double in the Harry Potter films.

"I was speaking at a lunch in London and someone from Warner Bros was there and he phoned me up the next day asked if I would be interested in auditioning as Hagrid's body double," he said. "Here was this guy that I had never heard of calling me up and I gave him real abuse down the phone thinking it was a team-mate winding me up.

"But I went down to the studio and for the last ten years I have strutted my stuff on the big screen. It was really good fun - not just because of meeting all these famous actors, but working with a lot of talented, dedicated people behind the scenes. Surprisingly rugby and acting is very similar in some aspects. I had been a policeman for ten years, I was a rugby player and then in the film industry and all three are about teamwork.

"In many ways Hagrid was the making of me - taking on that role gave my life a bit of direction. It can be tough as a retired sportsman - I didn't really know what I wanted to do. But I love performing - playing rugby for me was a performance; broadcasting, speaking, writing and acting are all forms of performance."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter is the assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.