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Horsman focus is on future as he calls for players to get a helping hand; RUGBY: You go from being part of a squad, to trying to fill your days. It's a shock to the system - CHRIS HORSMAN: Ex-Wales prop Chris Horsman tells rugby reporter SIMON ROBERTS that the game must do more to help former players after their careers are over.

Byline: CHRIS HORSMAN

LIFE after rugby can be a daunting prospect for any former professional player.

From being told where to be and at what time you live a structured and very disciplined life.

You are told what to eat and when and are surrounded by people. And then there is suddenly nothing.

Like Michael Owen, the Wales and Lions No 8 who announced his retirement from the game due to injury last week, Chris Horsman was forced to retire from the game due to injury.

The former Wales prop - who saw service at Celtic Warriors, Bridgend and Worcester - quit after a catalogue of injuries finally took their toll and he hung up his boots in July 2009.

The 33-year-old, who won 14 Wales caps and played in the 2007 World Cup in France, has been left to his own devices for the last 12 months.

Horsman, of course, resurrected his career after a well-publicised battle with cancer at the end of the 1990s.

He won that battle, not once, but twice, and is more than equipped to deal with whatever life throws at him.

Horsman has ambitions to be a professional referee and is now an athlete mentor for the Sky Sports Living for Sport Scheme.

Along with the likes of sprinter Darren Campbell, the Olympic gold medallist, and badminton silver medallist Gail Emms, Horsman is trying to encourage youngsters to take up the benefits of sport.

"I do think the game has an issue pretty soon with your first lot of professional players coming to the end of their careers," said Horsman on a school visit to Carmarthenshire this week.

"You have to learn to adapt to a very different type of lifestyle.

"You go from having everything done for you and knowing where and when you have to be every day to being left on your own.

"You go from being part of a 35-man squad, living a disciplined life, to trying to fill your days. It's a shock to the system.

"The unions and clubs do have to think about what happens to former players after they retire."

Horsman has a point. Some players, even in the amateur days, have struggled to adapt to a new life after rugby.

But Horsman, who suffered with dyslexia, was regularly in trouble at school.

He freely admits he had more than his fair share of problems with the police as a youngster and says rugby gave him a life he thought he would never have.

"Rugby has given me everything and turned my life around," said Horsman.

The Bristol-born prop, who played for Wales under the residency rule, became one of the most feared scrummagers in the game.

He established himself just as props were starting to be truly valued and were able to earn the big money in professional rugby. Horsman may not have been a Carl Hayman earning pounds 350,00-a-year, but nevertheless he made a good living toiling at the coal face.

He said: "My old forwards coach at Worcester, John Brain, once told me: 'Good props are like rocking horse manure. Rare and worth their weight in gold.' "Look, I made a very good living out of the game, but I don't look at my pay cheques.

"I look at my Wales caps and have the memories of playing at the Millennium Stadium.

"That is what I look back on now, not how much money I made.

"Those are the things that make a career and you look back on."

Of course, Wales now boast one of the best tighthead props in world rugby with Adam Jones shining in the No 3 jersey.

"I have so much respect for Adam and what he has achieved," said Horsman.

"He is 28 and has really matured into a quality prop, you only had to look at the way the Wales scrum went against New Zealand to see that.

"He is a top bloke and a brilliant player and is the one rival I have had to compete with that I have actually liked!

"Usually, I didn't like players whowere fighting formyplace in the team, but I always had a lot of time for Adam.

"I think he is only going to get better over the next four years when he hits his peak.

"Steve Hansen took a lot of stick for playing him for only 30 minutes in a game, but it was perfect for his development as a prop."

But what about Horsman's new career as a referee? "It's a way of staying in the game," he said.

"I want to give something back and, as a former player, I do understand the frustrations of the players.

"I can see what a team is trying to do and the pattern of play they're trying to engineer.

"It does give me a real appreciation of what players want from a ref."

But is he ready to be the man everybody loves to hate on a rugby field and be put under the microscope? After all, who would be Uruguayan official Jorge Larrionda, who disallowed Frank Lampard's goal in the 4-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup? "That was disgusting," said Horsman, referring to the Lampard shot which bounced down over the line after striking the crossbar but was not given.

"Why football - the richest sport in the world - doesn't use goal-line technology is mystifying.

"Rugby has video referees and I always thought it added to the tension and drama when you waited for the decision on a try."

CAPTION(S):

* Chris Horsman with team-mates Ian Gough, John Yapp, Alix Popham, Robert Sidoli and Rhys Thomas at aWales training camp in 2005 - but life can be very different after retirement * Chris Horsman enjoys a highlight of his international career - scoring a Six Nations try for Wales against England in 2007 PICTURES: Huw Evans Agency
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 5, 2010
Words:977
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