Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tindall 'seizing every moment' as he looks to restore lost pride

Mike Tindall
Mike Tindall
David Kelly

David Kelly

So, Mike Tindall, multiple Six Nations champion, Grand Slam winner, World Cup victor, just how does it feel to now be the second most successful sportsperson in one's own household? "I can live with that!" he laughs.

The Gloucester centre is married to an heiress of royal and equestrian lineage, Mrs Michael Tindall -- or Zara Phillips to those of us not bound by royal protocol -- who has followed in her mother's footsteps by becoming an equestrian superstar.

A silver medallist at the London Olympics in 2012 -- her mother, Princess Anne, was a European eventing champion and competed at the 1974 Games -- Phillips' recent successes have overshadowed those of her once more celebrated husband.

At 35, the midfield veteran is nearing the end of his glittering career, though he still craves one more crack at Heineken Cup glory as Gloucester attempt to retrieve an almost impossible position against Munster tomorrow in Kingsholm.

These days, though, it is his wife who holds the upper hand in terms of sporting achievement as Phillips has also managed to notch a world title in eventing. "She's got more medals than me so I guess I just have to live with that," he muses wryly.

If life in the Tindall household couldn't seem to get any busier, the couple are expecting a new arrival any time soon, a prospective 16th in line to the English throne, as it happens.

"That will certainly change my perspective on life," he notes, as he edges slowly towards retirement, via a part-time coaching role, after a 17-year playing career.

He has unfinished business before hanging up his boots, though; chiefly, trying to overcome the humiliation of a 29-8 submission in their home fortress against Saracens last weekend by seriously denting Munster's European ambitions tomorrow.

"It's not been a good week for us but whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," he says optimistically. "You hope the spirit is still there. It was just so lacklustre that you have to expect a backlash, simply to get the pride back after what happened on our own patch. We need a reaction."

Tindall (below) hasn't officially announced his retirement -- he has been a regular starter in a dismal season for the Cherry and Whites and feels his form is good enough to continue -- and he also hasn't severed his ties with England, even if it seems Stuart Lancaster may have done the cutting for him.

He captained his country to a Six Nations title as recently as 2011 but a new wave of players have eased him into the history books.

The 62 caps (he debuted against Ireland in 2000), the Grand Slam (his midfield filleting against the same opposition backboned the clinical 2003 triumph), and the World Cup, annexed just months later, are dim and distant memories.

But for a variety of injuries, including a perforated liver that almost cost him more than merely the chance to tour with the Lions in 2009, he may have reached a century of caps.

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He is not ready to end his career just yet, however. "I'm seizing every moment, I enjoy every time I can get out there to play," he says. "You've got to enjoy it for as long as possible.

"With the Irish, we always have epic battles on the field. It's physical, close to the wire, close to the bone in terms of bubbling up. But it's also the case that you develop something really special with the players off the field too.

"My career is just a continuing pathway. It's going to get to a point where you weigh up personal ambition and what's best for Gloucester.

"When Nigel Davies (head coach) offered the (coaching) job to me, it was something I've always thought about getting into. I'd love to do it full-time when I'm retired.

"We've been good at sorting out what works for both parties. I've played most of the Premiership games and if I'm still playing to the same level, I'd hope to play for another year."

Irish Independent

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