Dubai: Dafydd James is a well-known name is Welsh rugby, having represented his country 45 times and as he prepares to represent the CNCF charity team in the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby 7s, he tells XPRESS why he is looking forward to the December 1-3 tournament at The Sevens.
"I've been thinking about it for weeks now so I can't wait to get out there and perform," he said.
"I played in the Dubai Rugby 7s way back in the '90s at the old ground and the atmosphere even then was fantastic. It's always been a great place to play rugby and that has only been enhanced by the development of local rugby and the construction of a great new home for the 7s on the Al Ain Road. So it's great to be back here playing rugby.
"The Christina Noble Children's Foundation (CNCF) isn't one that I was familiar with until I came to Dubai, but the causes they raise money for are enormously worthy and I'll be all too glad to be able to do my bit to help children less fortunate than myself all over the world."
The 36-year-old former Wales and British Lions winger who once held the record for the number of tries by anyone in the Heinekken Cup (29) revealed how he has managed to transfer his winning formula from sport to business in the UAE.
"James Reed, the chairman of multinational HR consultants Reed Recruitment, brought me on board at Reed here in the UAE because he wanted me to transfer my winning mind-set and competitive spirit from the international rugby field to a corporate one. Success on the sporting field is about discipline, hard work and tenacity and I'm using those same traits to make a success of my life away from sport and make a big impact in the corporate world," he said.
James' career has had quite a few highlights and he revealed why leaving the game was so tough.
"Becoming the first person to score 25 tries in the Heinekken Cup was a proud moment. Playing for the British Lions was an incredible experience too. It really is the top of the sport and to play seven of the eight games on that 2001 tour was something I'll never forget as long as I live. But for me, winning my first cap for Wales was the pinnacle. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end at the Sydney Football Stadium," he said.
"The low point I'd say was finishing my career. People always tell you at the beginning of your career to enjoy your time because it will all be over before you know it. I'm living proof of that. I honestly don't know where the time has gone. Seventeen years in the game gone in the blink of an eye. It was particularly tough for me because I felt even at the end that I was fit enough and strong enough to still play the game but the game didn't agree," he added.
Being a Welshman, conversation inevitably turned to the tragic demise of the country's football coach Gary Speed and the difficulties of coping with life after sport.
"You live a privileged life as a top level sportsman. We are all out there just doing what we feel we do best, but other people doing their best in other walks of life don't get the type of recognition and notoriety that sportspeople do. So having to walk away from all that, even though you know it's coming, is very difficult. It's easy for people to underestimate how tough it is to go from a career in top level sport to a life away from the sporting field, but having to accept that my time was up in top level rugby was the most difficult thing I've ever done. It's a bit of an emotional roller coaster if I'm honest."
Back in business
Dafydd James now works as a consultant for senior level positions at Reed Recruitment in Dubai. Go to www.reedglobal.ae to find out how James can help bring success to your organisation