Why did you sign up to SAS: Who Dares Wins?
At the time I'd literally just finished playing rugby at Northampton and my divorce had just come out as well, so obviously I was in a bit of a weird head space. I was sort of killing time before I moved to America because I'd signed a new contract out there, so I had a four month period of doing nothing. I needed a challenge, something to focus on, something to focus my mind and give me something to aim for, so this opportunity came around. The weird thing is I was sitting around a table with my brother in law, and we were talking about doing TV work, maybe a bit of punditry or reality stuff. He said to me, "The one you want to do is SAS: Who Dares Wins," and because I knew it wasn’t for people in the public eye I just instantly ruled it out. Literally the day afterwards I got a phone call from my agent saying, "SAS: Who Dares Wins is doing a celebrity version, do you want to do it?" So it was the weirdest coincidence!
You mention in the show that you wanted to get a bit of perspective on your life…
Yes, because in the space of about three months my life had literally been turned upside down both professionally and personally. So it was nice to take myself away from that and challenge myself mentally and physically. To just do something completely different that would take me away from that world and put me somewhere completely different, give me a little perspective on what was going on in my life.
With everything going on in your personal life was it hard to stay focussed out there?
It's hard not to let your mind wonder, but obviously, when you do the show, you're so tired the whole time, you don't really have much else to give or much time to focus on anything. We were living off about four hours' sleep a night, food was very limited, you didn't get to go and have snacks, or anything like that. You had your three basic meals a day and they were basic! Your body was tired and your mind was all over the place anyway because you have to focus on things because you can't be late, you have to make sure your bag was packed correctly, you had listen to the instructions of what the guys would say for each task. There was always something to think about. It was good for me to get my mind away from where it was and give me something completely different to focus on. It was liberating. We all loved the fact that we handed in our phones. You realise you don't need it because about 5 or 10, years ago we didn't have 4G and Twitter or Instagram. Your lives get taken up, so it's nice to actually go back to basics and not have to worry about your phone or getting back to someone.
You’re physically fit so did you find that side of the show easy?
I think fitness did help because obviously these guys are seriously fit. Obviously doing rugby put me in a good state of mind for the challenges like going up mountains, carrying heavy loads, and things like that. That was always going to be one of my strengths. The mental side of it all was always going to be the bit that was going to be testing for me. I've always been one of those athletes that probably wasn't mentally the toughest. I was always quite naturally gifted in my abilities. I didn't have to work too hard, so when things come to a grind and you've got to push through, that's where I'm more commonly stuck. That was the test of character that I was looking for.
When you're flying out there, what was the thing that you were most nervous about?
It was like weighing up the competition a little bit, I guess. I knew that everyone would be relatively fit going into the show, but nobody had given anything away. Obviously, Wayne Bridge doing it with me, he’s a good mate of mine so when I saw him, I thought, "Yes, Bridgey's here." Then, it's like weighing everyone up, seeing what their motivational drive for doing it was, and becoming friends, because that's one of the things that I think is quite apparent, that we all became so close, which was wicked. I made some great friends from the show and still speak to them today. We have a WhatsApp group together and we all chat and get in touch every now and then.
What did you think about Ant and the rest of the DS staff?
I've watched bits of the show so I knew of Ant, Ollie, Jason and Billy. I knew their faces, knew their names. I knew their drill sergeant-esque persona is to basically shock and wean out the weak. I knew we could expect that, but what I did find was the witty banter, they're always jibing each other, it’s very much like being in a rugby changing room. I loved it instantly. I’ve always been the butt of most of jokes in the changing room, I’m used to having the piss taken out of me so it was good fun.
During filming of the show did you ever get emotional?
Oh God, I cried! I hadn’t seen my kids for a while and during my master interview for the show one question they asked me early on was, "Are you an emotional guy?" I thought, "No. I'm not really an emotional guy. I don't really cry very often, or anything like that." They were like, "When was the last time that you felt a bit of emotion and stuff?" I said, "Actually, not long ago. I was reading on Instagram post about 9/11," because it had just gone past the anniversary date of 9/11.
One of the messages I read was from a guy who was on one of the doomed planes and he wrote to his wife and just said, "Listen. I love you. I want you to have the best life, but do me a favour and give the kids a kiss on their head and smell their hair for me”. I started welling up just telling the story because that's what I do to my kids whenever I see them. I kiss them on top of their head and I smell their hair. I don't know why I do it, but I love the smell of my kids! I just became a blubbering mess and started crying.
How do you feel about sharing that vulnerability on TV?
Well, I don't think anyone in the rugby would describe me as macho, so I think I'm safe in that department. But I think that people will be surprised, but I'd like to think that I cried for the right reasons. The thing is, in today's society I think it's quite nice seeing someone get emotional on screen, it’s important to show that you don't need to bottle it up. It's nice to get things off your chest and then get on with the next phase of your life.
Were there any funny moments?
There were so many times where literally, we were like kids just laughing at the stupidest things, especially Bridgey, because he used to sleep next to me. I just remember at night me and him being in stitches and people getting angry with us because we were laughing like kids, but that made it even more funny because we felt like kids, and we felt like mum and dad were telling us off.
Do you think this experience has changed you in any way?
It's given me more appreciation for what those guys have done and I've made friends with people who I would never have met, like Jeremy. When you get to live with someone and see what they're about in those sort of situations, a lot of people surprise you. It shows you should never judge a book by its cover. You've got to give people the time and the effort, and sometimes they'll surprise you and you can form friendships and admiration for people after seeing different sides of them.