Gloucester Rugby’s start to the season has been anything but predictable. Unable to win at home, yet unbeaten on the road, with the 27-27 draw at Exeter the third match out of six so far in the Premiership where they have taken two points. When it comes to Round 7 at the end of the month, the losers from Gloucester’s clash with Northampton at Franklins Gardens will have a lot of catching up to do.
One of the few constants so far has been the name at number two on the team sheet. Richard Hibbard has started all six league games, and the Wales and British Lions hooker is a visually distinctive figure – but don’t let that deceive you.
An one-to-one audience with Hibbard is a rare event, and given he’s recently become a father for the third time I was fortunate to catch him. He and his wife Louise now have a little boy to join their daughters, aged 8 and 6, and off the field he cuts a different figure to the image we see on the field.
“My family is everything” he went on. “I play rugby for them – it’s what I do it all for. I quite enjoy the physical confrontation but that’s just for the pitch. I love the game but it’s brutal and unforgiving and it could be over for you at any moment so planning for life after rugby is a necessity whether you are 18, 24 or my age (Hibbard will be 33 in December). I’ve always worried about having a plan B for the family and I’d like to think I have things in place.”
To that end Hibbard is a director of an estate agency in Neath Port Talbot and a business partner in a electrical firm, both of which he devotes time to on his days off back in South Wales. To cut down on the travelling on training and recovery days he also has a base locally as well, but wherever he is Hibbard maintains a selfless attitude.
His agent’s involvement with a charity prompted a short autobiographical e-book to encourage reading : Hibbard is a supporter of the annual “Movember” campaign and he’s auctioned items on social media to raise money for others.
“If I can do anything for any sort of charity then I just like to do it” Hibbard said. “I’m in a lucky position in terms of what I do and the stuff I get. I’m a bit of a hoarder and keep quite a lot, especially the things that really mean something but if I can raise money by giving some of it away then that’s what I do and it’s good fun if people feel they want to bid for it.”
Now in his third season at Gloucester, Hibbard made his 50th appearance for the club in the victory at Sale and as the season turns towards Europe, Hibbard believes it is too early to pass judgement on how it may unfold.
“It’s early days and the new game plan is still being tested” he reflected. “The first half against Leicester was probably the best 40 minutes I’ve been involved with at Gloucester. We let the game slip away and it was our own fault, and going forward it’s about cutting out the mistakes.”