Saturday, October 23, 2010

Five minutes with Matt Banahan and Butch James

Five minutes with Matt Banahan and Butch James

England international Matt Banahan and Springbok Butch James were at Farleigh House a few days back so we were given the opportunity to catch up with them. Some questions were also submitted by you on the RD Facebook Page , so here's what the two Bath backs had to say.

So Matt tell us a little bit about the scheme you are here to launch today.

We're here for the the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme, which is a brilliant idea and a global thing that all the Premiership clubs are going to buy into and that can only be good for the game. I didnt play rugby as a youngster but I think that if this sort of programme was around back then, then it might have been a different story and it can only help push rugby forward across the whole of Britain.

Are you as passionate about rugby now as when you started out, or does it sometimes feel more like a job?

Matt: It never feels like a job. My girlfriend is a beautician and she sometimes works from 7am to 7pm thats a job. We are blessed. We have to enjoy every day and have a passion for it every day. That passion comes out in big games, and especially at the start of the season and at the end of the season. There are only a few weeks here and there when it might get hard, but otherwise there is always something to look forward to.

How did you find the transition from second row to wing?

Matt: I only played as a second row from the age of 16 until I came to bath at 19, so I only played there properly for about 18 months or two years. Now I have spent five years as a winger. People always refer back to me as being a former second row but I have spent much more time on the wing, so I dont look back on those days at all. Its all because I get tarred with that brush of being tall and heavy.

What is your daily diet?

Matt: I wake up in the morning and take all my tablets and powders that our nutritionist gives us to make me feel good. Then I train and have my protein shake after a weights session, train again and then go down to the Rec for lunch. We have whatever the chef picks for us to eat.

In the afternoons we have time off so I might have a sandwich for a snack, and then have a nice wholesome meal in the evening some pasta maybe, or kievs. Its the same every day really, and one day a week I might be allowed some naughty food.

Can you be an English version of Jonah Lomu?

Matt: I dont want to be an English version of Jonah Lomu. He was one of the best in his era and this is a different era now. Id like to make a name for myself and not be behind somebody who was as great as him. I would like people to say that you could have Matt and Jonah on the pitch together, rather than me being referred to in comparison to him.

Are you ever intimidated by an opponent physically?

Matt: Only the small, fast ones. I wouldnt have liked to have played against Joe Maddock, luckily I played with him! Even though he has a smaller build he was powerful and fast. That isnt comfortable for me to play against. I try not to think about other players though I would like it more for them to be thinking about playing me.

How many tattoos do you have and what is your favourite?

Matt: I have so many that they almost blend into one, theyre scattered all around my body. I like the big one I have on my chest as my brother has the other half to it and that means a lot to me. I like the pin-up girl on my arm and theyre all good quality as I get them done by the best tattooist around.

What is your best time for the 100m?

Matt: Its probably very slow. I can do it in about six seconds on my motorbike but I wouldnt know to run it. I picked up rugby so late and only do short distances so I havent timed myself for 100m.

Butch, how different is it playing at the Rec compared to Kingspark in Durban?

Butch: Its very different. At Kingspark you get far bigger crowds, thats one difference, but the Rec makes more noise than Kingspark. Thats pretty cool for us and whatever the weather is we get the crowd in Kings Park if its raining then you wont get too many guys in the stand.

The stands are all close to the field at the Rec, so you can hear every comment, which makes it like having 25,000 people there. Ive never seen a crowd like you get at the Rec come rain, hail or snow they are always out supporting us.

You've fixed up your tackling technique over the years have you worked hard at it or does tackling lower now come naturally?

Butch: I dont think I really changed anything. There was one year in my career where I got nailed and did some bad tackles. I think I built up a bit of a reputation and that stuck with me for a while. Hopefully I have dusted that off over time and I havent changed much to how I normally tackle.

What is it like to work with a player like Morne Steyn?

Butch: Its good, especially when you practice kicking with him after a training session. You see how good he is at it. The whole time I was in camp, over three months, I think I saw him miss three kicks. Its awesome to be able to kick and train alongside him. He is playing really well and it is good to see how he takes control of a team.

What do you think of the Springbok selection policy for overseas based players?

Butch: They arent excluding them at the moment, so thats a good thing they are trying to keep their players at home by not picking guys overseas but Im sure in a couple of years when the game goes even more professional I am sure they will start looking elsewhere.

Who would be in your fantasy Aviva Premiership backline?

Butch: No.9 would be Michael Claassens. I would like to be in there myself but if I had to choose someone else at fly-half it would be Toby Flood. At 11 would be Big Bad Banners. I'd have to choose my centre partnership at Bath Ollie Barkley and Shontayne Hape. Alesana Tuilagi would be the other winger and then Nick Abendanon at full-back.

Matt Banahan and Butch James were speaking at the launch of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme, designed to increase participation in the sport and unearth young England stars of the future. Find out more at

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