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From patrolling the streets in the police and the Hollywood big screen, to a Five Nations Grand Slam and MasterChef final, Martin Bayfield has had a varied life! As he brings his 'Rugby Legends' tour to the Bath Pavilion on 8th October, we chat to the former England forward about the tour and what to expect.

Tell us about the show? 


“I’ve always enjoyed spinning a yarn and as everyone knows, rugby players all love telling stories. I do a lot of public speaking, so I’ve always thought it would be great to take what I do and put it on a stage, just to let it breathe a little bit more and give it some life. Also, I wanted to get other people that I enjoy speaking with involved too. What really made me go for it, as it’s quite a terrifying idea really, was when a few of us were contacted during the first lockdown by people asking us to record a message for their parents or grandparents who were struggling. That stuck with me, so I thought about getting myself and some others from the world of rugby up on a stage, release the handbrake and let everyone talk. The interest in it has been really good and we’ve got some really great played up for joining us, so I’m really excited about the whole thing.”

Picking the guests for something like this can’t be easy, as you don’t just need legends, you need legends who can entertain a crowd too. What was your criteria for selection?


“They’ve got stories to tell. It’s as simple as that. They’re World Cup winners, they’re players who have overcome adversity, they’re players who make me laugh and will make other people laugh. They’ll inspire you, they’ll motivate you and they’re insightful. We have Benjamin Kaiser who’s hugely bright and has a great insight into what on Earth is going on in French Rugby right now, as it’s suddenly in this rich vein of form. You’ve got Lawrence Dallaglio talking about winning the World Cup and the highs and lows of his career, you’ve got Sean Fitzpatrick talking about what it’s like to be an All Black. There’s no team in the history of sport that has quite the aura of the All Blacks and Fitzy can give us a glimpse behind the curtain and tell us what it’s all about. I’ve heard these guys speak, so I know they will have people in the palms of their hands. They are the very, very best.”

Martin Bayfield credit Dennis Luckett _ C1 Media.jpg

"What really made me go for it, as it’s quite a terrifying idea really, was when a few of us were contacted during the first lockdown by people asking us to record a message for their parents or grandparents who were struggling."

How is the show going to work on the night, then? 


“We’re fine-tuning how it’s going to work, but basically I’ll do my bit to start, which will be 20-30 minutes, then we’ll get the guests on stage and let them go. I’ll be interviewing them, they’ll be chatting amongst themselves and they’ll be very involved with the crowd. We’ll get people who are coming to send questions in advance over social media, then on the night they can ask them in person, kind of like a Newsnight format. It’ll be very relaxed and interactive. We want it to be reactive and off the cuff.”

Your time in rugby coincided with the era when the sport suddenly went professional and players became actual household names. What was that like?


“Nobody knew quite what was happening when rugby went professional. We just trained a lot more. Some of it worked and some didn’t, so it took a while to find it’s feet as a professional sport, though you could argue it still hasn’t quite got there even now, as a result of some decisions made at the time. There definitely were superstars in that England team when I was involved with it, for sure. I certainly wasn’t one of them, but you look at Will Carling, Jeremy Guscott, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore and people like that, they were real stars that everyone wanted to talk about, particularly Will and Jerry. Now there are far more stars as broadcasting and social media gives us 24/7 rugby, so you have far greater access to your team and players than you’ve ever had before. In the main, for all it can be intrusive, I’m sure that’s the way they would want it. The trolls are there and there’s racist, homophobic and misogynistic abuse on social media, but in the main it works well. It spreads the word and makes rugby more accessible than ever before. It always has been there, but the players are more accessible.”

Before turning professional, you balanced rugby with being a serving police officer. That can’t have been easy? 


“I loved it, even though it was chaotic at times. It was the norm at the time. I would finish work and go straight to a game, or the other way about. You’d feel battered and bruised, thinking ‘I really can’t face night duty here’, but you’d just get on with it. I was a police officer, so I took that role incredibly seriously and wouldn’t ever let anyone down. It was crazy, though. Like we won a Grand Slam in 1992 on the Saturday, hungover on the Sunday and back walking the beat on the Monday, with people beeping their horns at you and shouting ‘well played!’. Likewise if you lost a game, you had people just coming up and saying you were sh*t! I had to remind them I was in uniform a few times.


When the game went professional though, I missed it terribly. It’s something now that’s hard to imagine, just going from amateur to professional within a matter of days. There were no rules and was pretty shambolic, but somehow it got through.”


If you had to pick one thing as the highlight of what is a storied career, what would it be?


“When we went away with the Lions in ‘93 always stands out. I loved that tour. I know we didn’t win it, but we nearly did as we lost the series 2-1. I absolutely loved that, though. Just to be part of that history, to be able to say you were a British & Irish Lion is pretty special. I remember that tour with huge affection.”

Martin Bayfield England Kit - credit Allstar Picture Library Ltd _ Alamy Stock Photo.jpg

You seemed like a natural on Masterchef, as many sportspeople seem to do. Is it the competitive spirit that drove you on there, or is there more to it than that? 


“I loved doing that, but it’s not so much that we are being competitive, it’s more that you make sure what you do, you do right. I think that’s where sports men and women do well on Masterchef as they learn, listen and take on advice, as well as being very good at sorting themselves out, prepping themselves and getting themselves where they need to be. There’s a procedure to go through, much like preparing for a game. That’s what I found. I loved the learning process, being in some seriously good kitchens and being taught by top-class chefs. Why would you turn down that experience or not take it seriously if you do? I wanted to listen to them and learn from them. Look at Phil Vickery, who’s one of the guests we have on the tour. He’s got his own restaurant now and is doing phenomenally well. He actually won Masterchef back in 2011. How good a story is that?”


You are releasing your first book, A Very Tall Story, in September of this year. What prompted you to finally tell your story like that? 


“It’s kind of the same reason for doing it as I had for the tour, to be honest. Basically I was sitting in lockdown and realised I had a story to tell. The aim of the book initially was going to be a kind of love-letter to rugby, just exploring why I love the game so much. Then I started to realise it was becoming more thoughtful about certain aspects, like how I felt when I got dropped from the England team, when my career came to an end, what has inspired me and what things have I done well or where I could have done better. It became something much more than I initially planned, but always at its heart, it’s still about a journey through this ridiculous sport where you have the very best characters and the most amazing matches, but at the same time the slight sense of the shambolic that is always present. I hope that what comes through is that there’s a lot of laughter, but there’s a serious and quite emotional side to it too.”

Between rugby, film, tv, public speaking, writing and more, you’ve achieved a lot in your life. Is there anything you’d still want to do now? 


“I’m not ready to slow down yet. The time will come when I want to do that, but I love what I do. The crucial thing is I love being part of a team, as everything I’ve succeeded in over the course of my life has been part of a team, even in Masterchef as you’ve still working together with great people, even if you are competing as an individual.


I’m happy with what I’ve done in my life, but if there’s anything else, I’d love to do more work in the film industry. I don’t think it’ll ever happen as the Harry Potter thing happened in isolation, but I absolutely loved every minute of that. If I could relive those years, I certainly would. It was so bizarre and unexpected. The crew I worked with behind the scenes were the very best of people and working with Robbie Coltrane was an absolute joy. He was a brilliant character to work with, as he’s just so great to be around. He’s mischievous, funny as hell and hugely, hugely talented. When we finished it all up, I had real sense of bereavement. 

If the opportunity ever came to do more like that, I would leap at the chance. So if anyone needs a giant again, I’m absolutely up for it.”

So if anyone is on the fence about coming to the live shows, why should they take the plunge? 


“You will feel the sense of belonging, love and family that rugby can engender. You’ll feel the excitement, you’ll hear stories that you won’t have heard before, you’ll get the inside track on what really went on and you’ll see and hear some of the greatest players who have ever played the game. They’ll want you as involved in the conversation as you want them to be. The love for the game and the love of sport in general will just shine through, so whether you are a hardcore rugby fan or you have been just dragged along, you will enjoy it. I guarantee it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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To book tickets to see Martin Bayfield's Rugby Legends on Saturday 8th October at Bath Pavilion with David Flatman & Andy Nicol, simply click the link below...

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