Banahan: 'I don't want to touch a rugby ball again'

MATT BANAHAN admits he would be happy if he never touched a rugby ball again, having called time on his professional career.

Matt Banahan, pictured charging at future England captain Owen Farrell during a Premiership match between Bath and Saracens in 2012, has hung up his boots Picture: David Davies/PA Wire
Matt Banahan, pictured charging at future England captain Owen Farrell during a Premiership match between Bath and Saracens in 2012, has hung up his boots Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

However, the former Jersey RFC, London Irish, Bath, Gloucester and England powerhouse says he will always look back on his 16-year stint at the top of the game with a smile – while in possession of zero regrets.

The 34-year-old Islander, who made over 200 top-flight appearances and sits equal-sixth on the Premiership’s all-time try-scorers chart, left Gloucester Rugby for the final time on Thursday morning and is now preparing for a new venture away from the sport.

An agreement to join West Country charity Bath Recreation as an academy manager, supporting under-privileged children, marks the beginning of a new chapter. In Banahan’s eyes, at least, there is no question of turning back. Not even for a cameo appearance in the annual Nash, Fallaize or Siam Cup clashes between Jersey and Guernsey.

‘I probably won’t want to pick up another rugby ball ever again,’ said Banahan. ‘I’d much rather play in charity football or cricket matches for a bit of fun.

‘If I pick up a rugby ball again people will expect me to produce what happened ten years ago and the risk of injury in those sort of games is doubled or tripled. I’ve had 16 years of being scrutinised for everything you do on the rugby field.

‘The Siam Cup? Not a chance. I’ll be back over in Jersey a lot with my family, but I’ll just be playing golf and going to the zoo with the kids.’

Banahan left the Island a month after his 18th birthday, in January 2005, to join London Irish’s academy and enjoyed a sharp rise to national stardom. Within a year he was snapped up by Bath and soon made an impression in England colours – in Sevens, for the Saxons and then as a full international. He scored on his first-class debut – against Argentina at Old Trafford in 2009 – and would go on to play a key part in the country’s 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign in New Zealand.

And all the while, he remained true to his roots.

‘You’ve got to remember where you came from and all the people who helped you on the way,’ he said.

‘I was just a kid who went to La Moye School and then Les Quennevais School. It still baffles me today that I went to a World Cup in New Zealand and played in the quarter-finals. I still believe I’m the same guy who used to run out with the boys at the club back home. I always went out to have fun and I tried to carry that with me throughout my whole career.'

Full interview in Saturday's JEP.

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