The Bears front-rower talks polystyrene, pasta and playing the jester

Downtime with… Bristol Bears prop Max Lahiff

What’s the worst job you’ve had? 

Before I got in London Irish’s academy I had a job as a marble labourer. We’d go around the posh parts of London. What a job. Trying to pin 150kg slabs of stone to walls with adhesive. It was nutty and wrecked your hands as well.

Who’s the funniest team-mate you’ve ever had? 

At Melbourne Rebels, Sam Jeffries, a big ginger lock, was the living embodiment of Will Ferrell. The most gifted storyteller I’ve come across, impeccable comedic timing, and got into all sorts of seedy madness in the deep, dark heart of Melbourne at silly o’clock.

Any pranks you can share? 

Nathan Catt was one hell of a prankster at Bath. In the car park, he used to cling-film wrap cars but fully – some do just a little bit, but he would do the whole shebang. And obviously you’re trying to cut the cling film off, you can’t scratch the car.

And you know those polystyrene balls you get in a beanbag? In the players’ lounge, we had a beanbag that kept popping so they left a box of reserved stuffing for the boys to put in it – he just ended up putting all the beanbag filling into the cars of some players.

Do you have any phobias? 

Probably open water and sharks. Just the ominous deep, dark ocean. You never know what’s lurking under the surface.

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

A good tiramisu. The Oven in Bath does a Nutella tiramisu. It’s the most benevolent dessert ever made. I love it.

Your biggest bugbear? 

At the moment some virtue signalling infuriates me because I don’t believe that these people live their life as some paragon of justice. It’s just not in human nature. They just pick a niche and try to become this ideologue and it’s not authentic.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard on the pitch? 

Recently we played Quins and it was good craic. Joe Marler was on fire. Luke Morahan kicked in-field and it was terrible. Marler shouted, “That was a good kick… in Opposite Land!” That made me chuckle.

If you could be any of your team-mates, who would you be? 

Charles Piutau would be fun. You become a demigod on the field, beating more defenders in one game than most beat in a season.

Everyone treats you nicely at training, there’s not much training as you’re off-feet most of the time. You can be laconic. And you’re a good-looking man as well.

Your biggest waste of money? 

I tried to buy these weighted juggling balls recently, like four or five kilo, cast-iron ones. But I was getting them from a company that only do things in bulk and I didn’t read the fine print and got like 25 of them!

Juggling aside, got any hidden talents? 

At the moment I’m big on mirror writing. So I’ll write in cursive with my right hand and then on the opposite page I’ll write with my left (facing the other way). It’s meant to be really good for motor skills and neurologically. I learnt it in lockdown and can now smash it out.

What is your dish to impress dinner guests? 

I’ll make a mixed-meat ragu. I’ll use joints of meat and slow-cook it in a Dutch oven, for five to six hours. You’d have a sofrito of celery, carrots and onion, some tomato puree and a ton of stock, finish it off with double cream, emulsify it with pasta. It’s the greatest pasta dish, in my opinion.

And your three dream guests? 

There’s no choice but to go fictional so Gandalf, Charles Xavier… and Carl Jung!

What kind of films do you like? 

Recently, with the stuff that comes into cinemas, Disney has just taken over. But I like dialogue-driven films for the most part. I love Guy Ritchie films and Tarantino films and also Ridley Scott films. He has such vivid imagination.

What would you like to achieve outside of rugby? 

To go into the media. I’d like to try a few bits and bobs in it, potentially presenting. Even writing, I really enjoy it as an outlet, like short-form articles.

I like to elicit emotions, help people find joy, make people laugh, whatever it is. And I like dialogue. I love listening to people and connecting with the individual.

You have a cousin, James Frecheville, who’s an actor. Does acting interest you? 

Absolutely. It sounds like a lot of fun. Imagine playing dress-up for the rest of your life!

How would you like to be remembered? 

I’m sort of seen as this sideshow but I’d like to be remembered as a rugby player as well as the Bristol jester! I’d like to be remembered as a guy who had good craic and did his best to bring as much on the field as he did off it.

This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s September 2021 edition.

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