Shaw reckons he's lost an inch and a half in height over the years of scrum impacts

Country: England
Age: 38 (1 September 1973)
Position: Second-row
Born: Nairobi, Kenya

A three-time Lions tourist, Simon Shaw spent 14 years at Wasps and has represented England in 71 Tests and at three World Cups. Here are a few things you might not know about Toulon’s newest lock…

I needed a change. The move to Toulon came at the right time because I wanted a new experience. I needed something completely different and I came with an open mind. I’m enjoying life down here and I want to immerse myself in the culture.

Life’s more relaxed in France. Every time I go back to the UK I go into overdrive. As soon as I get to the airport I’m thinking about where I have to go next, what time, and so on. Here it’s very laissez-faire.

I used to speak Swahili. I was brought up in Kenya but remember little of the language now. I can also speak Spanish as I spent time in Spain. I’m trying my best with French but my schooling was many years ago and I don’t recall much. I pretty much understand everything but can’t converse very well yet.

The kids love it here. I wanted the kids (Samantha, 8, Tyler, 7, Beau, 5, and Sienna, 2) to have a different experience. At home it rains a lot but over here the weather’s fantastic and they can play outside. The chance for them to learn another language is great. Everyone said they’d be speaking French in three months, so I expected them to be able to speak a third of French in a month! They’re doing well and are ordering meals for us.

France has a lot of incredibly large players. Even at 6ft 8in and 18st 8lb, I often find that I’m no longer one of the biggest or heaviest on the pitch – I’m fourth or fifth on the list. I thought the game might be a lot faster in France, but it’s slower than I expected and all French clubs have a tough pack up front.

Back in the day: Wasps v Gloucester, 17 September 2000

Our trampoline ended up in the swimming pool. I spent a day and a half constructing this 13ft trampoline in the garden for my kids and the Mistral blew the thing in the air and it landed in the pool. It’s supposed to be a coastal breeze, but it’s a very hefty wind that comes out of nowhere.

I’m not in any hurry to retire. It’s all doom and gloom out there and Toulon are interested in signing me for another year. I’ve also got a corporate events company, Set Piece Events. We’re launching a sevens festival in Brighton on 8-10 June (thebrighton7s.co.uk), which should be great. People concentrate on age too much. Lots of sportsmen and women achieve their ultimate goals in their 30s, such as Kelly Holmes, Linford Christie and Steve Redgrave, who won the last of his Olympic gold medals at 38.

My first rugby memory is a bit random. I was playing football in the garden when my dad and our Welsh neighbour started swearing at each other across the porch for ten minutes. It was only later that I found out it was half-time during a Five Nations game between England and Wales.

I hope rugby doesn’t become like football. I wouldn’t want players to ever be separate from fans, the people who watch and love the game. To socialise with fans is part of rugby. As soon as that stops rugby will be like football and other sports where players are so ‘big’ they’re untouchable.

I was sitting on a toilet when an earthquake hit. We’d gone on holiday after the World Cup in New Zealand and on the first day my wife, Jane, and I went to the supermarket – the only four-storey building in Bali! – to get essentials like nappies. I went to the loo and that’s when the earthquake struck. The mirrors smashed and the toilet came out of the wall and the floor. Then I had the ultimate dilemma: get myself together when there’s a chance I could die or run out into the middle of the supermarket with my trousers around my ankles!

I decided to take my time and when I found my wife hiding under a clotheshorse we ran out of the building. I persuaded a taxi driver to take us back to the hotel to see if the kids were okay. He was listening to pop music so I got him to put on the news so we could find out what was going on. Bizarrely there were still roofers on houses putting down tiles! The quake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, but luckily the kids were fine.

My best rugby moment came with Wasps, not England. For me the game is about playing with mates and achieving something with guys who you play with week in, week out. So after the years I had at Wasps, the 2004 Heineken Cup victory against Toulouse stands out as the best.

Mark Regan was very nervous about meeting the Queen. We went to the Palace after winning the 2003 World Cup. He was okay meeting the Queen, then we went into a big hall where there were lots of dignitaries and a big buffet. A footman, in all his regalia, approached myself and Ronnie and said, “Earl Grey?” Ronnie replied, “Mark Regan, pleased to meet you.” Any moments with Ronnie are memorable!

DID YOU KNOW?
Shaw is the oldest player to represent England at a Rugby World Cup. He was aged 38 years, nine days when RWC 2011 kicked off

This article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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