Mike Tindall passing the ball at the England vs Italy RBS Six Nations Rugby Match on February 12, 2011 in Twickenham; picture © Neil Balderson / Shutterstock.com

Between Two Posts: Mike Tindall

22nd May 2015

Former England Rugby captain Mike Tindall talks to Al Gordon about life after rugby, charity work, and his changing golf handicap

After 79 caps for England and a long career at Bath, Mike Tindall has made the conversion to charity work. A patron of Rugby For Heroes, the professional sportsman – and husband of Zara Phillips, granddaughter of the Queen – is channelling different sports into the cause. This year saw the charity’s third Celebrity Golf Day, featuring rounds from Nigel Mansell, Jodie Kidd, Steve Redgrave and more. “We thought we’d give it a whirl to see if we could create an event that was a lot of fun but also that could raise some money for the charity,” says Tindall. “We’ve raised over £100,000 over the past two years and hopefully we’ll continue in the same vein this year.”

Rugby has long enjoyed a close association with the military, and Tindall can see the similarities in lifestyle. “Rugby players and soldiers live by the same set of rules… Help for Heroes has also always had that strong link with rugby. I think that the leadership, the team bonding, the work ethic, all these things really do overlap. And having a laugh in the face of adversity as well, when you’re hurt or you’re going through bad times… we have the same sort of sense of humour as those guys do, and that’s why we get on so well.”

The charity is working on an initiative that helps ex-military make the transition back into civilian life, including re-entering the work force and feeling connected with their family again. “With the Rugby World Cup around the corner, we’re trying to launch a course to get ex-service men and women into coaching. But what we do at the same time is raise money to put into our charity partners. An example of this is the On Course foundation at the Golf Day. Guys who’ve been injured in action… we are now trying to get them a job in golf. One of those guys, Paul Swayne, lost an arm and is a 12 handicapper at golf now, which is incredible.”

Tindall might still be a big name in the rugby world, but when it comes to golf, he speaks modestly of his own swing. “It’s alright,” he offers. “I got an email the other day to say that my handicap is now 10, so I’m getting there. I’m not sure if I’m quite a regular 10, we’ll see. My handicap is probably going to hamper me. I used to play off 14, where now I’ve got to try and play to 10, which is a lot more difficult.”

He considers his golf game similar to his skiing skill – he’s “comfortable” but “not exceptional in any way, either.” While it didn’t take Tindall too long to master winter sports on reality TV show The Jump, first prize went to TOWIE regular Joey Essex. “Unfortunately I had to lose another final, but there you go! I’m getting used to it now,” says a good humoured Tindall. “I’ve been lucky in the past at winning finals. But I can’t win any outside of rugby, unfortunately!”

Tindall’s next challenge was Bear Grylls: Mission Survive where, a natural athlete, he proved himself tough both mentally and physically – and far from squeamish. But then having been on many typical rugger nights out, drinking urine wasn’t a huge problem for Tindall. “Bear did look at me strangely when I said “are we drinking our own or are we drinking other people’s?’” he laughs. But with a young family to look after (daughter Mia is two years and four months old), Tindall’s rugby lad days are in the past – though he’ll never stray too far from the sport. “With regards to rugby now, I’m just a fan and a casual local player every now and again. But in terms of going forward, I’m still trying to do more TV rugby punditry stuff, I do the TalkSport show, bits for BT Sport, a few ambassadorial roles so I keep plugging away at that.”

While Tindall’s wife Zara Phillips is famously known without her ‘princess’ title, the rugby player admits that being known as “World Cup winner Mike Tindall” hasn’t quite lost its edge yet. “I don’t think you ever get sick of that,” he laughs. “Because you do sort of forget about it. Genuinely! I’m not the sort of person that sits there and thinks about what we’ve done in the past. You forget sometimes. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded. Just because there’s not many people that can say they’ve done it. It’s always nice when you get that recognition.”

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