Being a coffee fan, giant Cardiff Blues and Wales lock Lou Reed calls into our shop from time to time, and last week he very kindly agreed to an interview for my blog! Here’s what happened…
Lou Reed is smiling after a busy day at the Vale training facility on what is a lovely Spring day. With a busy schedule approaching for the Blues, there is lots at stake and much to discuss! “Training went really well” he says, explaining that sometimes it can be difficult if the team is on a losing streak, or you’re not getting picked, but indicating there is a definite optimism in the Cardiff Blues camp at present.
The last few years the Blues have been rebuilding and, from the perspective of fans like myself, it looks as if we are starting to move in the right direction. Reed agrees, pointing out the impact new head coach Danny Wilson has undoubtedly had during his first season in charge. He indicates that Wilson is working towards having a smaller squad of greater quality, and is impressed by how well organized the set-up is at the Blues. “The players and coaches are on song now, which makes for a good team”.
What is a realistic target for this season, the Blues currently in ninth place in the Pro12? “We began this season aiming for the top four, and now everything is focussed on making the top six”. This would see a welcome return to Champions Cup rugby for the Arms Park outfit.
So, which teams and players have impressed him this season so far? I must admit I’ve been impressed with Connacht, currently topping the Pro12 table, backing up their performances week after week. Reed points out “[Connacht] has always been a tough place to go and get a win. In the past they’d maybe finish mid-table after winning their home games, but now they’re winning away from home too, and against some big teams”. Reed also points out Bundee Aki has been a superb signing for Connacht – apparently he’s a big guy, and very difficult to bring down!
As for the Blues’ new signings, the likes of Rhys Gill, Matthew Morgan and Nick Williams will bring huge confidence and experience to the Arms Park next season, and Lou Reed is expecting them to have a massive impact. Gill’s signing from Saracens seems like a major coup, having spent the last few years playing at the very highest level in Europe.
Reed was full of praise for Rhys Patchell, who “has put his body on the line every week for the Blues, long after signing for the Scarlets [for next season]”. I must say, I’ve continued to be hugely impressed by Patchell’s performances. He seems like a true professional, and I hope he continues to go from strength to strength.
It didn’t take Reed long to answer when I asked him which are his favourite rugby grounds or cities at which to play. “I absolutely love playing Ulster in Belfast. Their supporters are so proud of the team. Their song – ‘Stand Up For The Ulstermen’ – it gives me goosebumps when the crowd starts singing it”. He tells me of a brilliant away trip right at the end of one season where the Blues team where invited to join a Wedding Party at the hotel where they were staying! He also loves playing Leinster at the RDS, in front of a packed house.
Speaking of away games, I wanted his thoughts on Super Rugby. He enjoys what he sees, but doesn’t follow it as much as fellow Blues lock Jarrad Hoeata (who signed from the Highlanders in 2014). And, as much as he likes the idea of a world club league, he concedes that no change of that scale is likely to happen in rugby union any time soon.
The Blues, of course, played a one-off invitational match in South Africa against the Cheetahs in Summer 2014, a game in which Reed was involved. He describes it as “a tough old game, but a brilliant experience. It was at a university with a proud South African rugby history. There were no stands – the crowd were stood pitchside”. He speaks fondly of their brief time in the country. The Blues won the game 32-31.
What was his opinion of Wales’ loss against England on the weekend? He watched the match at “my old rugby club in Treorchy”, and even did a spur-of-the-moment question and answer session at half time. What a legend. Of the game itself, he was full of praise for Taulupe Faletau, a phenomenal athlete. The media made his battle with cousin Billy Vunipola a focal point of the build-up: “It must be difficult to play against family like that”.
Reed is really excited for the remaining regional derbies this term, as well as, of course, Judgement Day IV, which looks set to be a sell out event for the first time – a massive milestone for the regional game. “There is more bite when you play against a local club. I’m hoping we can turn the Ospreys over. Selection for the Wales summer tour will be up for grabs. The young boys will be after places. These are the biggest games”.
And finally, my wife Emily insisted that I asked him whether he was named after the singer Lou Reed. With a smile, he confirms that, yes he was. Apparently he’s even got a pretty decent singing voice, with Lionel Richie’s “Hello” being a favourite: He first belted it out following his very first Wales cap, against Scotland, after Al Kellock had presented him with a bottle of Famous Grouse.
Here’s wishing Lou Reed and the Cardiff Blues a successful end to the season – and thank you so much for the interview!