As rugby players get older, there is the dilemma of what to do next when an aging or injured body can no longer withstand the weekend showdown of a full-contact game.
Most simply step out, pick up the golf clubs or a fishing rod and stand on the sidelines and encourage those still on the field before reporting into the clubhouse for a golden cold one. The social appeal of rugby never goes away for most fans.
Many older players now find a way to continue playing, sometimes as veterans in the contact game, but increasingly under the banner of walking rugby.
This is the case at Pontyclun in the south of Wales where the club hosted a successful walking rugby festival in June.
“It is a fast-growing sport supported by the World Rugby Union and played by more than 20 clubs in South Wales,” the website states.
“The game is basically touch rugby at walking pace. All the fun elements of the traditional game – but without any of the pain.”
The no-contact aspect of the game means a tackle is a touch to the armpit or lower.
The game takes place on half the field and participants must walk at all times. This makes it ideal for those who no longer have the speed of a young Shane Williams or the swinging technique of Phil Bennett on a good day.
Festivals also gave players the opportunity to play at iconic grounds such as the Gnoll Sports Ground in Neath, Newport’s Rodney Parade and even the Principality Stadium itself.
Whether they will gather at the Welsh clubhouses to cheer on a victorious Welsh team remains to be seen.
Warren Gatland’s team had a sad year behind them and finished fifth in the Six Nations. There was also a spate of retirements and growing concern about the financial health of the game in Wales.
However, the Welsh have a good history at the World Cup and they reached the final in 1997, 2011 and again in 2019 when they finally lost to the reigning champions – the Springboks.
In France, they open against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10, before also facing Portugal, Australia and Georgia.
If they finish in the top two places after the group matches, they can face the old enemy, England, in a quarter-final. And this match comes with the guarantee that it will not be played at a walking pace.