Since retiring Austin Healey finally had time to spend with his family, however when the opportunity to get back into rugby came knocking, how could he turn it down? Along with fellow England teammates Ben Kay and Pete Richards, the ever opinionated Healey is now a presenter for ESPN Scrum, providing match analysis for Aviva Prmiership games.
RUGBY WORLD: What’s it like working at ESPN?
Austin Healey: It’s really good! I wasn’t sure I wanted to give my weekends up again now that I’ve got a family, but I’ve rediscovered a real passion for the game while being impartial about who wins.
RW: Have you had any broadcasting mishaps?
AH: While filming live, Ben Kay was supposed to hand over to me. The producer was telling him to pass to me in one ear, but I was telling him not to in the other because I wasn’t ready. It ended up with Ben not knowing what to do and not being able to speak! I just burst out laughing.
RW: What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch?
AH: Johnno landing on Duncan McRae was pretty funny noise-wise. He sounded like a siren!
RW: Any bugbears?
AH: Players who don’t maximise their potential, and waste talent by not working hard enough. Like Dylan Hartley at the moment. If I was his coach I’d throttle him! He’s got the potential to be the greatest hooker in England, but he doesn’t work hard enough!
RW: What’s the best or worst headline you’ve seen about yourself?
AH: On tour in New Zealand there was a headline after a Test that said Austin Powerless. They gave me one out of ten for my performance, which was harsh!
RW: What’s the best game you played in?
AH: 26-all, England v New Zealand in 1997. It was an incredible atmosphere. And for selfish reasons, the two Heineken Cup finals I won with Leicester.
RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
AH: Being able to control people’s minds must be the ultimate superpower. You could make anything happen.
RW: Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?
AH: My kids, who I don’t get to see a lot of at the moment.
RW: Describe your ideal holiday…
AH: Not getting changed for the first four days, eating on the beach, lots of sand, and somewhere hot.
RW: What couldn’t you live without?
AH: My family. Although when I go home to see them they’re such hard work I wish I was away again! Four daughters are a handful!
RW: Who’d play you in a film of your life?
AH: Brad Pitt! No, not sure, really. Shrek?
RW: Who would be your three dream dinner-party guests?
AH: Freddie Mercury – I’m a big Queen fan. Albert Einstein. And my mum, who’s died, to tell her what I’ve been up to.
RW: What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?
AH: A blue flannel waistcoat. I thought I’d wear it on holiday but then realised I don’t like showing off my arms, so I never wore it!
RW: Any regrets?
AH: I have loads but I don’t dwell on them.
RW: Any bad habits?
AH: I gave them all up when I stopped playing because that’s when I had to get a proper job. It’s harder for players these days because a lot of them are so stupid!
RW: What are your happiest and saddest memories?
AH: My saddest is my mum dying. Happiest is playing rugby as a career. How many people have had opportunities like I have? Representing your country is a wonderful experience.
RW: What was your best practical joke?
AH: The day we got our letters telling us we had been selected for the Lions squad, I hid Will Greenwood’s. He only found out he’d been picked when the press told him. Hilarious!
RW: How would you like to be remembered?
AH: As an honest guy who gave everything on the pitch. Someone who upset a few people on the way but who, deep down, was good at heart.
Just a little clip from the ESPN show ‘The Umpire Strikes Back’ illustrating why Austin tends to get in trouble…