The tales of Charlie Faulkner, who was no ordinary rugby player

So first issues first, what ought to I name the nice man? Is it to be Charlie or Tony Faulkner?

In giving me a quantity for his former team-mate, Graham Worth had issued a phrase or warning.

“It’s Tony till you get to know him higher,” he stated.

“Don’t neglect, he’s a black belt in judo!”

So, despite the fact that he’s now 80, it was with a slight diploma of trepidation that I broached the problem with the person himself.

“Effectively, the rugby folks, the gamers, have at all times known as me Charlie,” he stated.

“However all people else has known as me Tony.”

He was really christened Anthony George Faulkner when he was born in Newport again in February 1941.

So the place did Charlie come from?

“I rode a white shirehorse years in the past in Jack Roberts’ farm,” he explains.

“The horse’s identify was Charlie they usually known as me after that.

“It was a giant one. I assume I did have a bit in widespread with a giant shirehorse.”

This was clearly going to be no strange interview.

However then Faulkner was no strange rugby participant.

He didn’t win his first Wales cap till he was virtually 34, however went on to share in two Grand Slams and go on the 1977 Lions tour of New Zealand.

Maybe most famously of all, he was a part of the legendary Pontypool entrance row, alongside Worth and Bobby Windsor, a trio celebrated in tune.

He goes again a protracted, great distance with Windsor, again to the mid Sixties after they performed collectively for the Whiteheads Metal Works workforce at Bassaleg.

From there, loosehead prop Faulkner went on to play for Newport Saracens and Cross Keys earlier than becoming a member of Pontypool in round 1970.

“I used to be studying my commerce,” he displays.

“I had just a few bollockings studying it, however I discovered it.

“I got here up by way of the ranks.”

It was at Pooler that he was to fulfill the person who was to vary his rugby life – coach Ray Prosser.

“He had an enormous affect on me,” he stated.

“I’d put 90 per cent of the success I achieved right down to him. I’m certain Bobby and Graham would say the identical.”

So what was it about former Wales and Lions prop Prosser that set him aside?

“He had no mercy,” declares Faulkner.

“He educated and educated and educated you.

“For those who didn’t run up the Grotto fast sufficient, he’d make you do it once more. No messing.

“He hardened you, oh yeah.

“Lots of people couldn’t take it.

“Pross used to at all times say to me: ‘Health breeds confidence, confidence breeds talent and talent breeds success. So that you’ve bought to get your self match, match, match.’

“Self-discipline was one other factor. He set excessive requirements and pushed you to attain them.

“He used to say ‘There’s a pot of gold up on the prime of that mountain, you’ve bought to crack it’.

“He had sayings for every thing!”

Becoming a member of Pooler additionally reunited Faulkner with hooker Windsor, with younger tighthead Worth rising to finish that immortal entrance row unit.

“We simply gelled collectively,” he stated.

“It was the precise stability.

“Bobby was a world class ahead. He might throw the ball within the lineout, he might hit low, he might hook channel one, two, three and channel 4!

“We labored collectively, we performed collectively, we had been very shut. Bobby has by no means altered!

“Then Dear, he was a incredible tighthead. His file speaks for itself.

“It was nice to play alongside them and we now have had a long-lasting friendship.”

Faulkner, proper, alongside Bobby Windsor and Graham Worth for Wales towards Australia in June 1978

But whereas he was vastly revered at membership degree, the worldwide name eluded Faulkner as he moved in direction of his mid-30s.

“It did cross my thoughts that I would by no means get there,” he admits.

“However I stored going as a result of I used to observe all the opposite props and used to assume to myself ‘I’m higher than them’.

“They couldn’t f***ing scrummage one iota.

“For years, I performed towards props that might run, however they couldn’t scrum.

“I beloved the scrum. It was so necessary to the facet to have a superb platform.”

Ultimately, the necessity for that strong basis noticed Faulkner chosen to begin for a Welsh XV in a non-cap match towards New Zealand in November 1974.

“I keep in mind, early on, Gareth (Edwards) put the ball in and we by no means moved,” he stated.

“He stated ‘It’s good to play with a Welsh scrum the place I can put the ball in, I can kick it, I can cross it, I can run with it, I can do what I would like with out the scrum going backwards’.

“Taking part in towards the All Blacks was a proud day for me.

“Though it was a non-cap recreation, it was nonetheless representing Wales so far as I used to be involved.”

Then, the next January, that elusive first cap lastly arrived as he packed down towards France in Paris.

“The press didn’t give us a lot of an opportunity,” he recollects.

But a new-look Wales workforce defied the chances to win 25-10, with fellow debutant Worth scoring an unforgettable attempt.

“For those who have a look at the footage, as soon as Dear scored and threw the ball up within the air, I caught it,” stated Faulkner.

“Dear at all times mentions in his speeches that the primary two forwards up there to congratulate him had been me and Bobby.

“Watch the movie, we had been each there spherical him.

“It goes again to what Pross at all times used to say in regards to the significance of health.”

Faulkner’s second cap noticed him dealing with England in Cardiff and going head-to-head with Fran Cotton, the Check prop from the Lions’ unbeaten tour of South Africa the summer season earlier than.

“Though we had been enjoying at residence, England had been favourites,” he stated.

“That they had all of them out they usually had been going to do that and try this.

“Anyway, we bought within the dressing room, sat down and I seen no one was speaking. Not even Bobby with the banter.

“The environment was electrical. I believed to myself ‘These buggers are going to exit and die for it’.

“The look of their eyes, their faces. I had by no means skilled environment like that.

“Anyway, John Dawes (coach) walked in. He went to say one thing, however he seemed across the room and all people was simply trying by way of him.

“So he simply checked out Mervyn (Davies) and stated ‘Over to you Merv’.

“He had the sense to maintain quiet. He might really feel the environment.

“Merv had his bit to say and we went out and completed the job.

“All of them thought the English prop, the Lion, Fran Cotton, was going to trigger us havoc, trigger issues, however he by no means did.

“I had the higher of him that day. I by no means had a number of hassle with Cotton, no.

“I at all times favored beating England. It was the previous enemy sort factor.

“I by no means misplaced towards them. I gained the lot.”

Former loosehead prop Faulkner with a Grogg of the well-known Pontypool entrance row

Faulkner’s fourth cap, at residence to Eire, introduced a very particular second, his one attempt for Wales.

“I keep in mind all of it. Some components fade away, however I keep in mind that,” he stated.

“It was good, it was nice. I loved it.

“Bobby handed me the ball, which he has jogged my memory of some instances over time!

“It was a proud second for me due to my age and all the remainder of it, which so many individuals did remind me of, particularly the press.

“After I learn the papers after a recreation, they wouldn’t discuss my efficiency. They talked about my age.

“I discovered that irritating.

“It was at all times ‘veteran Faulkner’ or phrases to that impact. They by no means, ever talked about my efficiency.”

He feels the Welsh pack as a complete didn’t get the credit score it deserved for the half it performed within the successes of the Nineteen Seventies.

“There’s one incident that at all times sticks in my thoughts from after we beat France in Cardiff to win the Grand Slam in ‘78,” he stated.

“It was a French put-in at a scrum of their 22 and we pushed them again off the ball and took it towards the pinnacle.

“We whipped it out Benny (Phil Bennett) and he went over.

“Now they at all times discuss of Benny scoring the attempt, however they by no means point out the pack pushing France off it.

“We pushed our balls off. It was a superb snap shove.

“France didn’t like being pushed again, so for them to lose one towards the pinnacle and concede a attempt was a giant factor.

“I look again and assume we made an enormous contribution there, though it was by no means talked about by the press.

“I keep in mind saying to Pross on the time it was a bit upsetting that they don’t even point out us.

“He stated ‘Charlie, you’re ready the place you carry water for different folks to drink.’

“I believed that was a bloody great way of placing it.”

He provides: “I don’t assume we ever had the accolades we must always have, the forwards, as a result of it was a bloody good pack. They had been all match and powerful.

“Gareth used to say, ‘I can put the ball within the scrum figuring out it’s not going to return’.

“However I believe the Welsh folks just like the backs, don’t they? The working and all the remainder of it.”

Pontypool legends Graham Worth, Bobby Windsor, Charlie Faulkner and Terry Cobner forward of the 1975 5 Nations

Each of the Slams Faulkner shared in had been secured with victories over arch rivals France, who he picks out as opponents like no different.

“France had been the dirtiest,” he says.

“I keep in mind their hooker (Alain) Paco punching Allan Martin within the abdomen in a single recreation. He completed it three or 4 instances.

“Allan is a giant man, however his toes had been coming off the ground. It was like certainly one of them Rocky movies.

“He didn’t go down thoughts, Allan.

“Then there was (Gerald) Cholley. He was the newbie heavyweight boxing champion of France.

“He let fly at me just a few instances. He hit me on the ear as soon as and within the abdomen.

“However I used to be so match, I didn’t really feel it a lot.”

The scrum was a very perilous a part of the sport when dealing with the French.

“You’ll have one coming by way of common,” stated Faulkner.

“And never solely a punch, however with the boot.

“I keep in mind one recreation, (Alain) Esteve was kicking Bobby. He was letting fly with the boot.

“Bobby stated ‘Subsequent put-in, I’m not going to strike, I’m going to kick him within the head’ and he did.

“The scrum broke up and there’s this Esteve on the ground, simply trying up at Bobby.

“Then he winked at him. I believed ‘F***ing hell Bobby, you haven’t hit him laborious sufficient!’

“You knew he was going to retaliate, so I stated to Bobby ‘Inform him he’s wished on the telephone’.

“I don’t assume he took a number of discover of that.

“He was a tough man that Esteve. Soiled bugger thoughts.

“(Michel) Palmie was the slyest. The man with the glass eye.

“However Esteve was the nastiest. He was the one.

“Increase, he would ship them by way of. Your head would shoot out of the scrum, then bang once more. He would carry your head clear out of the scrum.

“He was a giant man that Esteve. He was the dirtiest of the lot.

“He used to go ‘Bob-bee!’, then you definately knew there was a punch coming.

“I’d at all times drop my chin down towards them.

“I seemed up and I watched their second rows. While you see their arms dangling and their fist disappears, you understand it’s coming by way of.

“So I used to tuck my head. That manner, they might punch you on the pinnacle.

“They didn’t like that as a result of they might break their hand.

“So then they resorted to the boot.

“Sure, it was violent at instances.”

Given every thing that was occurring, was he ever frighthened on the pitch?

“You had been too busy defending your self to be frightened!” he declares.

“You accepted it.

“You needed to defend your self as a lot as attainable within the scrum.”

So, did he take into account himself a tough man?

“No, I thought-about myself to be a survivor,” he stated.

“I used to be by no means knocked out and I used to be by no means felled by a punch. I used to be fortunate, I suppose, since you are at all times weak.

“Lots of people assume I used to be a tough man.

“However I simply defended myself, though I wasn’t averse to punching somebody in the event that they hit me!”

Faulkner performed in an uncompromising period

Three of Faulkner’s 4 outings towards France, together with the 2 Slam sealers, noticed him scrum down towards Robert Paparemborde, a tighthead with a fearsome status.

“In his ebook, Dear stated I used to be ruthless,” he recollects.

“Effectively, I needed to be towards Paparemborde. He massacred all people. They had been all fearful of him.

“He was a superb tighthead. He would screw you right down to the deck should you let him.

“So there was a number of strain constructing as much as the Grand Slam video games.

“For me, it was figuring out how do I counteract him.

“I used to speak to Pross about it and he would say: ‘Water at all times finds its personal degree. Work it out. I can advise, however I can’t do it for you.’”

That scrum shove, resulting in Bennett’s attempt in 1978, with the French entrance row up within the air, confirmed Charlie had labored it out.

The half Faulkner, Windsor and Worth performed in such triumphs was actually acknowledged by Max Boyce, who penned the tune, the Pontypool Entrance Row.

“I believed that was nice,” stated Faulkner.

“I entered into the spirit, type of factor.”

Trying again on his profession, he has a lot to savour, however his two huge regrets each relate to the All Blacks.

In 1977, knee harm dominated him out of the 5 Nations and from rivalry for the squad for that summer season’s Lions tour of New Zealand.

“It was a really, very premature damage, dangerous luck,” he stated.

“It was disappointing to not make the Lions squad, however that was circumstances.”

Faulkner did make it out to New Zealand ultimately, as a substitute for crocked countryman Clive Williams, enjoying towards Bay of Lots, North Auckland and Fiji, however a spot within the remaining Check simply eluded him.

Then, in November 1978, got here Wales’ notorious assembly with the All Blacks in Cardiff, when the Kiwis’ late successful penalty was awarded after second rows Andy Haden and Frank Oliver dived out of a lineout.

“That was the toughest defeat to cope with in my profession,” stated Faulkner.

“Not a day goes by the place I don’t consider it.

“It was horrible.

“They dived out of the road, the 2 of them.

“They rattling screamed. You couldn’t hear it on the telly, however they screamed out, as nicely.

“It was out and out dishonest. They over-stepped the mark there.

“We had been the higher workforce on the day.

“We rucked them, out-scrummed them, we beat them within the lineouts.

“We deserved to win.”

Again in 1975, Wales prop Charlie Faulkner bursts through towards the Japanese line as team-mate Steve Fenwick tumbles from a tackle in the second test in Tokyo. Wales won 82-6
Charlie Faulkner bursts by way of for Wales towards Japan in Tokyo in September 1975

That was to be Faulkner’s remaining season on the worldwide stage, together with his nineteenth and final Check for Wales coming towards France in February 1979.

“I believe as a result of the caps got here late in my profession, it made it all of the extra particular,” he stated.

“I most likely deserved it due to the coaching I put in. It was right down to laborious work.

“Dear at all times stated I used to be completely devoted.

“I did my greatest to maintain myself match and I had a superb status of propping.

“I’ve bought a lot of fond reminiscences of my enjoying days. Folks can’t take it away from you.

“I’ve bought loads to thank rugby for, particularly the friendships.

“There was a number of enjoyable, we loved ourselves.

“I’m fairly proud of it and fairly proud of my contribution.”

After hanging up his boots, Faulkner moved into teaching, together with spells with Newport and Cardiff, establishing himself as an actual scrum physician.

“With teaching, you’re nonetheless concerned within the recreation, however nothing can substitute enjoying,” he admits.

“It’s completely different pressures, as nicely.

“You may have solely bought your self to take care of as a participant and please the coach.

“When you find yourself teaching, you’ve bought to take care of the entire 15 and try to kind issues out. It’s a accountability.

“You assume gamers are all going to be as devoted as you had been, however they aren’t.

“I discovered that very laborious, very troublesome.

“However I did take satisfaction once I might see my teaching was bringing a participant on.”

Away from the sport, Faulkner spent 23 years working as a gross sales rep for brewers Whitbread, a job he discovered got here naturally to him.

As for household life, he has been married to Gill for 52 years they usually have three youngsters and 6 grandchildren, with residence nonetheless being Newport.

“I really like all of them,” he stated.

“I’m 80 now, however I’m nonetheless younger at coronary heart.”

Former Welsh worldwide Faulkner at residence in Newport

Lastly, as our dialog attracts to an in depth, we return to the topic of Ray Prosser, who handed away final November.

“I used to be very emotional at his funeral,” says Faulkner.

“We had been invited by the household – the entrance row – into the church.

“Proper on the finish of the service, because the curtains got here spherical and the coffin went off, they sung the tune, the Pontypool Entrance Row.

“It was gut-wrenching, however marvellous. He favored the entrance row Pross.

“Once they sang it, we had been all reduce up. Bloody hell, that was emotional.

“I shed a tear that day. I used to be on the verge of breaking down, however I by no means did.

“I simply crunched up, you understand.”

Simply as he had completed so many instances earlier than, in so many scrums, as he stated farewell to the person who had performed such an enormous half in his distinctive rugby life.

As we completed speaking, I had one remaining query.

“Can I name you Charlie now?” I ask.

“Sure, no downside.”

Cheers Charlie.

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