Peter Stringer is without doubt the Peter Pan of Rugby! He never seems to age and must have a mystical Guru stashed away who enables him to keep so fit and healthy. He is famed for his work ethic and diet, which ex Leicester Tiger Austin Healey always maintains consists ONLY of Salmon and Broccoli! On a serious not though, the diminutive Irishman has had an incredible career spanning 20 years which includes 98 Caps for Ireland, 2 Barbarians Caps, 15 years and 230 appearances for Munster, 2 Heineken Cup Wins and appearances for Bath, Sarries, Newcastle, Sale and now Worcester Warriors. Impressive by anyone’s standards! It was a pleasure therefore for RUGBY MONTHLY to sit down with Peter recently to discuss his life in Rugby……

RM – “So, starting where it all began Peter, would it be fair to say your days at Munster were probably the best years of your life in rugby terms?”

PS – “I guess when you look at it from the point of having grown up in the area, having played in the same team as a lot of guys you went to school with, then becoming a professional player with the club and winning European Cups and playing so many big games over 15 year period it has been an amazing journey, unbelievably special, and without doubt the best years of my playing career. So yes, definitely right up there!”

RM – “Looking back, it seems like it was almost a “Golden Era” of rugby back in the days when you started with Munster, and that there was a tangible bond between the whole club?”

PS – “Definitely, it was an incredible bond. It was 97-98 when I first started and the game had just gone professional, but you still had players there who had started in the amateur era and played for the love of the club and were making that transition. The camaraderie amongst the lads was amazing and that is what we all carried on through to the professional days. Having Munster selected as the team to be put forward into the European competition back then was hugely exciting and brought together the whole province. We didn’t win it for a while, but we came good in 2006!”

RM – “Talking of European Cup wins, they both came at the same stadium so do you have a certain affinity with The Millennium?”

PS – “Without a doubt, I think it is my favourite ground in terms of atmosphere and the sound you get from the fans being so close as there really is nowhere like it. Once the roof is closed and the volume comes up from either Munster or Ireland fans, that is something that sticks with you for life. Amazing.”

RM – “So making the decision to leave Munster after so many years and so many memories must have been one of the hardest you have had to make?”

PS – “I never really wanted to leave Munster if I’m honest. I had 15 fantastic years with the club and got to be selected for Ireland off the back of it, so I saw no reason to leave. However, around 2012 I found myself on the fringes and out of the match day squads and I definitely didn’t feel I was ready to retire. That’s when I made the decision to come to the UK. Don’t get me wrong, Munster was the most amazing club to be at and the culture and the people were just incredible and I experienced some great successes, but when you find yourself increasingly on the fringes and not getting game time it is a very tough place to be when you have been at the very top. I didn’t want to hang up my boots so although it was an incredibly tough decision to make I knew it was the right one at the time for me and my game, to experience something fresh and take on new challenges.”

RM – “Thing’s don’t seem to have panned out too badly for you in the time you have been over here though I guess?”

PS – “Ha ha, you could say that, I’m still putting the boots on so it hasn’t been a bad 5 years! I had my first little taster of the Premiership on loan with Saracens before Gary Gold asked me to come to Newcastle until the end of the season. Following that Gary again brought me to Bath Rugby where I was fortunate enough to score 2 tries on debut which certainly endeared me to the fans! So far it has been a great move coming over to the UK, it has certainly refreshed me and my game and to play in a different league is very exciting.”

RM – “Having found your feet over here then, were you surprised when Sale let you go or was it always going to be that way?”

PS – “Well originally I signed for one season then at the end of that one I signed again for one more. Then there seemed to be a shift in the club and having spoken with some of the coaches it was apparent that they wanted to move away from the so called “older” players and bring in some younger blood. I was under no illusions as to how things were but I still felt as fit as I ever had and was confident in my game. I still felt I could play and compete in the Premiership. I have known Gary Gold for many years and have huge respect for the guy so when the opportunity came up here at Worcester I jumped at it. I know quite a few of the guys here already, including Donncha, so it was an obvious choice for me. I have played here a couple of times before and was always impressed by the professionalism shown around the whole club.”

RM – “Obviously, last season was a bit of a dog fight for the most of it but Worcester managed to stay up so did you have to be convinced by the powers that be that things would change or could you see and feel that change coming very early on?”

PS – “Nobody here wants us to be the yo-yo team that keeps going up and down and we are all working hard to make sure that isn’t the case. Obviously, with Gary coming in some things were addressed very quickly and that is great. I could see the changes last season before I arrived and that gave me even more confidence in the move. We have some amazing fans here and I think the whole area is crying out for some stability and success for the club. The existing players, and all of us who have come in, are pretty fed up already of being told by certain people that we will be involved in relegation again but we just use that negativity to motivate us even more! The competition here for places is fierce and that is a good thing, I have been places before where some players feel they are almost guaranteed their place but believe me there is no better motivation to perform each week than when you have someone biting at your heels!

RM – “Now we have to ask about your fitness and diet, and is there any truth in the rumour that Austin Healey loves to spread that all you EVER eat is salmon and broccoli?”

PS – Roaring with laughter he replies “Bloody Austin, that story will follow me for ever now ha ha! Look, it’s not all I eat but I have always been very careful to watch and control my diet. That’s the way I am. It’s in me. I still go out with family and friends to restaurants and enjoy myself but don’t overindulge. In terms of my fitness I firmly believe that I owe it to not only myself, but to the fans who come to watch, my family and friends and the club and my team mates to be in the very best shape i can. If I don’t live up to the standards that I set myself then I will regret it. Every element – Diet, Sleep, Recovery, Training etc- is very closely monitored, it doesn’t come easy and I work bloody hard at it! But I love it. It doesn’t matter if I was a footballer, a golfer or a cricketer I would be exactly the same.”

RM – “You had an incredible International career winning 98 caps for Ireland and must have had some great games and great memories during that time, but do you ever look back and wish you could have won 2 more to make it to 100?”

PS – “Not at all, I always look back and think how great it was to win 98 and not 2! Being philosophical about it I have to remember that there are guys out there who have say 7 or 8 caps who keep thinking “if only I had got to 10” so I can’t be worrying about that! Again, I was able to travel the world playing the game I love for my Country, while being surrounded by a fantastic group of guys. That has to be a good thing.

RM – “Talking of being surrounded by some amazing team mates one of those was Anthony “Axel” Foley who tragically died last year, do you feel able to talk about him now and, if so, you must have some great memories of him?”

PS – “It was one of the most horrendous phone calls I have ever had to take. I was up in Manchester at the time and got a call from Jerry Flannery saying he was ringing around the guys who were no longer at Munster with the devastating news that Axel had passed away. I was unbelievably shocked. He was a very close friend on and off the field and I knew him very well. Those couple of days back in Limerick for the funeral were as tough as I have ever experienced. To see the whole Rugby community come together from across the country, and the World, was truly amazing though. I got to meet up with some of the guys I had not seen for a few years and we spent a few evenings together sharing tales and stories of our time with Axel. That was special. Those who knew him understood that he was quite a shy man but in and around the team, the squad and the Province he was just phenomenal. He was an incredibly intelligent guy who knew the game inside out and was one of the greats of the game. He was just kicking off his coaching career too which is one of the saddest things. He went straight in at the deep end but everyone knew he would be an amazing coach. The way the whole world came together to show their respects to Axel was fitting testament to what a great man he was. He will be sadly missed.”

RM – “Life goes on as they say, how has it changed for you personally now that your new born Son Noah has come along?”

PS – “A lot! The sleep patterns and recovery times have had to be altered a bit but it is amazing to have him with us. I feel very blessed. Training is getting a bit harder too but I’m sure I will get the hang of thing’s ha ha!”

RM – “So outside of rugby do you have any hobbies you like to indulge in like Golf, fishing or the like?”

PS – “To be honest I don’t, it might sound strange but I know I will have time for all of that when I do retire so for now I put everything into being the best I can at playing rugby. That is my hobby I guess, keeping myself fit and motivated to keep performing at the highest level I can. But the most important thing is spending quality time with my family.”

PETER STRINGER is what every young rugby player should look to aspire to. Having him as a role model would be a very wise choice. His attitude, work ethic, passion for the game and just his complete outlook on everything is very refreshing and quite humbling. He may be small but he is truly one of the GIANTS of the game…….