Scarlet Pontypool boy Gareth Maule revels in rugby history
He may be a Scarlet now, but Gareth Maule is a true Man of Gwent and son of Pontypool. He talks to WILL BAIN.
GARETH MAULE smiles. “It still makes me laugh when they speak three or four sentences, all in Welsh which you can’t understand a word of, and then suddenly there’s an English word thrown in there because there’s no translation of it.”
It’s about the only complication Scarlets centre Maule has come across since he headed out West to join the region in 2009.
The Pontypool-born star found his path to the first team for his home region blocked under ex- Dragons coach Paul Turner but has flourished as part of one of Europe’s most exciting backlines at Parc y Scarlets.
“I’m sure when Rhys Priestland and Jonathan Davies, who are good mates of mine, are sitting next to me at lunch speaking Welsh they’re saying a few things about me, probably not complimentary ones.
“The heritage, history and expectation at this club is amazing and the Welsh-speaking is part of that.”
Maule gets to get his own back though when the team jet out to France for European games as he and winger Andrew Fenby channel a bit of their inner Gerard Depardieu and give the French a whirl.
"Andrew Fenby’s having French lessons so we have a bit of a fun with that, there’s a bit of banter going back and forth."
The banter’s not reserved for language but for food too.
A quick glance at Twitter will see you bombarded with the Scarlet’s Welsh stars professing their love for a certain chicken emporium.
"George North has got this Nandos black card which means he can take friends to get free meals there. I don’t mind a half a chicken or a whole chicken, but the way some of our youth team guys talk you would think it was more valuable than a black American Express card!"
A fun, almost family atmosphere, as Maule calls it, has been needed more than ever at the region in recent weeks. It’s been a tough few weeks for the Scarlets.
Since their humbling defeat in the derby at the Ospreys over Christmas, the Llanelli-based region have failed to pick up a win, making the upcoming LV Cup and the RaboDirect run without their international stars so important.
“The biggest disappointment has not just been the losses but that the performances haven’t been good either.
“It’s tight at the top of the league behind Ulster now but we’re in a good position to make the playoffs.
“We’ve waved goodbye to our internationals now for the Six Nations but it’s up to the boys here to stake a claim for a place when they get back and to make sure we’re still in a good position when the boys come back.”
His old side the Dragons aren’t in such a healthy spot but the effervescent Maule says he gains no pleasure in seeing them struggle.
“They gave me my chance, they’re my home region and I’ve got a lot of friends at the Dragons still.
“I think it’s a combination of a few things which have gone against them.
“The club are working hard and I think things like the training sessions up in Blaenavon have been really good. Maybe they should take a game or two to the Valleys.
“I also think there’s too much rugby on the television, which puts people off going to the regions.”
Maule raves about the Scarlets facilities and feels that if the Dragons had similar that would make a difference.
He is forceful on his hometown club. “Pontypool belong in the Premiership, simple as that.
“When you go anywhere in the rugby playing world and say you’re from Pontypool people automatically start naming the great players, the front row.
“I’m sure Mike (Hook) and his team know what they’re doing and can get them back where they should be.
“I’ve been up helping at Pontypool Utd with the juniors so my phone is always on and I’m happy to help in the area.”
Maule, who has represented Wales at every level except for a full cap still has Wales ambitions.
“I’m still young and when you’re playing in Wales you’re never a million miles away.
“I’m really enjoyingmyrugby at the moment and that’s the main thing.”