By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
NO SOONER had Lloyd Burns grown accustomed to life as a professional rugby player than it was all over, his burgeoning career cut short by injury.
At last year’s World Cup, Burns’s story was one that brought hope to any aspiring rugby player. Just a couple of years ago, he was working as a bricklayer and turning out for Cross Keys in the Principality Premiership, but then injuries saw him called upon by the Newport Gwent Dragons.
After 26 appearances for the Dragons in 2010-11, the hooker was catapulted into the Wales squad, making his debut against the Barbarians last June and then being selected for the 30 for the World Cup in New Zealand. It was quite some rise.
“I suppose if you’ve never worked you don’t know what it’s like,” said Burns at the time. “I guess I appreciate it (professional rugby) a lot. It keeps you grounded knowing what’s out there after rugby. Quite a few of the boys I worked with are out of work now because of the recession.
“You’ve always got to stick with your dreams and never give up. That’s my philosophy. Winning a cap makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and playing in the World Cup means everything. I’m living the dream.”
That dream came to an end all too quickly for the 27-year-old, however. On his return from the World Cup he suffered a neck injury and tests also revealed damage to his heart (aorta) so he was forced to retire in April.
In the space of just a few months he’d gone from the highs of Wales’ World Cup campaign to the daunting realisation that his rugby-playing days were over. Now that truly is an emotional roller-coaster.
As Dragons director of rugby Robert Beale said: “Everything Lloyd has achieved in life he has earned through hard work and dedication. His enforced retirement from the game has come as a massive shock to Lloyd and his family and will resonate throughout the rugby world.”
Burns, who has just celebrated the arrival of his first child with wife Rachel, is still on the road to recovery as doctors assess his heart condition. To help him start the next phase of his life on a firm footing, a fund-raising dinner aptly titled ‘Burns’ Night’ has been organised at the Celtic Manor on Saturday 26 May. If you’re interested in attending, please click here.