The Ospreys, Wales and Lions lock provides an insight into his life
Adam Beard on family, mauls and reality checks
The word ‘carnage’ is clearly a favourite of Adam Beard. It pops up regularly in this conversation, whether talking about having two children under two or a roller-coaster year on the rugby field.
Let’s start with the kids. Beard and his fiancée Chelsea Lewis wanted to have children close in age and have certainly got that with Zac, 19 months, and eight-month-old Liam. “They’re 11 months apart so it’s carnage at the minute,” laughs the Ospreys, Wales and British & Irish Lions second-row. “We were big on having two close together. Chelsea is one of three siblings all quite close in age while me and my brother have a similar age gap to our two boys.
“It’s a new job but it’s the best job ever. It’s absolutely crazy. One baby is enough, everything changes, but with two you’re always on the move and thinking ahead. You can’t just get ready and go, you have to prepare everything.
“It’s great to have the three of them in my life. When you’re in an environment that’s all rugby, to come home and see the little ones and my partner takes my mind away from things. Professional sportspeople need that distraction so you’re not constantly thinking about rugby, which can become too much.”
Lewis is also involved in elite sport, playing netball for Wales – she was recalled to the national squad just two months after giving birth to Liam. The couple are getting married next year and Beard believes the fact that they both appreciate what it takes to compete at the top level is an important factor in their relationship.
“So many aspects of the things you go through in rugby, in training, around games, Chelsea understands,” he says. “Whereas some other partners might not understand it as well, she’s been in that environment, we’re both in sport, so she understands it and we can switch off together, have family time.”
That awareness of the ups and downs of sport would have been crucial last year when he found himself dropped from the Wales squad for the 2020 autumn Tests. Having been a regular in Warren Gatland’s national set-up – he won all of his first 13 Tests, including a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019 – it was a reality check. Yet while it was disappointing at the time, he can now see that it was a blessing in disguise.
“When I was dropped there was maybe a bit of complacency involved,” he reflects. “Every time you put that jersey on for your region, you’ve got to put a performance in. Someone knocking on the door will get selected if you don’t raise your levels of performance.
“At the time it felt horrible and it’s definitely a situation I wouldn’t like to be in again, but it gave me a kick up the bum. You’ve got to keep working hard. You’re never a complete player, so it’s important to keep putting those eight-out-of-ten, nine-out-of-ten performances in for your region to put your hand up for selection.”
He was duly recalled by Wayne Pivac for the 2021 Six Nations, starting four of Wales’ five matches as they won the championship, but more peaks and troughs have followed. The excitement of receiving the email to tell him he was in contention for the Lions tour, the blow of not being selected, the importance of helping the Ospreys secure a place in the European Champions Cup, the shock of a late call-up to replace injured skipper Alun Wyn Jones on the plane to South Africa.
“It was absolutely crazy – carnage in all senses – but I wouldn’t change anything,” says Beard of last season. “It was a whirlwind, with so many ups and downs. As a young guy, it’s been good; it’s made me stronger as a person and stronger as a player.”
He enjoyed the opportunity to see “how other players went about their business” on the Lions tour – how they approached analysis, what they did in the gym, how they structured their week – to see if there were different things he could incorporate into his preparation.
One skill he appears to have mastered over the years is defending the driving maul, his ‘Go Go Gadget Arms’ causing opposing teams endless problems as they snake towards the ball. That ability to disrupt opposition lineout drives was one of the reasons he was called up by the Lions ahead of James Ryan and Jonny Gray. So how do you stop a rolling maul?
“It’s quite a difficult skill for second-rows. We’re big, long men, which does help, but it’s a lot to do with timings. People think it’s all about grunt but it’s technical. You must time it right and not go high. In a lot of situations you get through and have to put your head up to speak to the referee, so you don’t give away cheap, easy points.
“It’s obviously a tough thing to stop and a lot goes into a defensive maul. I’ve worked hard on it over the years and it’s something I feel is a point of difference for myself, it’s something I pride myself on. It’s a bit like a back kicking a conversion or a back-row winning a turnover with a jackal, it gives you satisfaction.”
There are now less than two years until the next Rugby World Cup, where Wales have been drawn with familiar foes Fiji and Australia as well as two qualifiers still to be determined (Georgia, another team in their 2019 group, are likely to be one of them!).
Beard believes Wales are in a good position at the halfway point of the cycle, the team seconds away from winning a Grand Slam this year. Yet it is the amount of talent Pivac has at his disposal that most impresses the lock.
“The strength in depth in Wales is the best it’s ever been. As it’s Lions year we got to blood young players in the summer and it’s something the coaches have their eyes on, so we’re peaking and in a good place in two years.
“Wales are well blessed in the second row. Jake Ball and Cory Hill, two quality players for Wales over the years, have just left, but we’ve still got probably seven or eight decent second-rows in Wales.
“Will Rowlands has signed for Dragons and he’s been going really well; I think a lot of Will. We’ve got a young player here at the Ospreys, Rhys Davies, and I don’t think it will be too long before he gets a Wales cap. So there’s a lot of talent around, not only in the second row but every position, which can only be great for Wales.”
Given the sporting prowess of their parents, Zac and Liam could well be adding to Wales’ talent pool in the future, whether on a pitch or a court or elsewhere.
This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s December 2021 edition.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.