Tuesday 27 September 2016

Peter Stringer: I just don't feel any differently than I did when I first started playing

Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30

Peter Stringer has agreed a one-year contract with Sale
Peter Stringer has agreed a one-year contract with Sale
Peter Stringer's time at Sale has already began strongly
Joe Schmidt with Andrew Murray from Cork after the Irish squad's training session at Irish Independent Park yesterday

The easy option would have been to call it a day and reflect on what has been a hugely successful career but Peter Stringer has never done things like that.

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When Bath decided not to renew his contract, his immediate thoughts turned to the next step rather than retirement.

He held brief talks with Leinster and the fact that he was unwilling to take up their offer of a short-term deal speaks volumes for the insatiable desire of the 37-year-old who doesn't feel any different to how he did when he first broke onto the scene almost two decades ago.

Sale is the next stop on his journey and he has wasted little time in making an impression - having finished second only to Joe Ford in the club's pre-season fitness test.

The conversation with director of rugby Steve Diamond was a straightforward one as Stringer made his intentions clear from the word go.

"I met with the coaching staff before I signed. They said they were keen to get me up there and I said I was coming up to play," the scrum-half explains.

"That's all I've ever wanted to do and that's why I'm making the move again. I just want to be able to play in a top league like the Premiership. I'm there to compete for a starting place. I want to start every week.

"I just don't feel any differently than I did when I first started playing. I wake up in the morning and I'm enthusiastic, I want to train. I train on my holidays. I have that bug.

"I'm addicted to it and it's a difficult thing whenever the time comes to finish, it will be tough but I'm just enjoying it at the moment. New challenge, new city, getting to play the game I love.

"As long as the mind and body are both working together I will keep doing it. If the motivation goes then you are not enjoying it, that's the end of it.

"Or if the body packs in that's the end of it. I look after the body because I appreciate it is a relatively short period of my life that I am going to be playing. I just want to give myself the best opportunity to play at the highest level for as long as I can."

Speaking at TV3's studios where Stringer was unveiled as a pundit for the World Cup, it's difficult not to feed off the sheer enthusiasm he has for the game but it wasn't always easy for him.

The decision to leave Munster was one of the toughest of his career but looking back on it, no one could tell him that it wasn't the correct one.

Conor Murray was just beginning to break onto the scene and as Stringer took stock of the bigger picture, he decided to seek pastures new.

Living inside the Munster bubble can be claustrophobic, even for cult heroes like the Cork native and the sense of anonymity that comes with playing in England was certainly a welcome one.

"Going away on those loan spells the season before was a great eye-opener for me. I came back to sign a new Munster contract with new coaches and it felt like a fresh start," he recalls.

"It didn't work out well that season and I took the decision to move to Bath. I've always been someone, as long as my mind and body are working together and I'm enjoying it, I'm going to keep playing.

Involved

"Munster has meant so much to me over the years and has given me so much. But when you're not involved, it can be the worst place in the world.

"For me, to get out of there, for my own sanity, to get on the pitch and play was what I needed. I've loved the last two-and-a-half to three years away.

"In Ireland, success brings that on when you win things at provincial level and international level. The hype grows and more kids play the game. The whole aura of rugby in Ireland has grown over the last 10-15 years.

"Cork, Limerick, Dublin wherever you go, it's always it's been pretty intense.

"It is always something I've embraced. I will be long enough without it. It's not something I've disliked in the past. It's never been a hindrance. I do enjoy meeting people.

"But you go to the UK and you could be anybody walking down the street. It's refreshing at times. It's nice to come home every so often to get the recognition," he smiles.

Brad Thorn called time on his 21-year playing career at the ripe old age of 40 in May and Stringer sees no reason why he can't do something similar.

Given his passion for the game, a coaching career looks certain after he retires and despite an offer from Bath to stay on in such a role, Stringer wasn't in the "frame of mind yet".

"As a back I don't know of many really (who have played till 40). I haven't really put a time frame on it. It's a thing that people bring up and I'm waiting for that day where I wake up and I don't feel it any more," he says.

"I suppose the challenge for me coming back this year was, you move to a new club and a new environment and you see how you fit in.

"You rate yourself against other guys in fitness scores arriving on the first day and I was second on the fitness score. You're still producing in that regard and still mentally you are motivated and want to play to get up and train every single day.

"People are constantly asking me (when will I retire) and it's kind of a thing where should I be looking at reasons to finish and I just can't find any.

"It's a case of just play for as long as I can and speaking to guys who have finished they know when it is their last year, they really feel that they have come to an end but I'm not at that stage yet."

When that stage does eventually come, Stringer, just like he has done throughout his career, will go on his own terms.

Irish Independent

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