Whether it’s the burgers and hot dogs consumed by parents and players alike on a Sunday morning or the protein-rich diets that fuel the game’s elite, food plays an important role in rugby.

On the latest episode of Rugby’s Greatest Podcast (Apple / Spotify), James Gemmell is joined by David Flatman, Gregg Wallace, Michel Roux Jr and Tom Hetherington to discuss the relationship that exists between the two.

Social media followers of former England, Bath and Saracens prop Flatman will be aware of his love of food and outdoor cooking, but he admits things don’t always go to plan on his grill.

“My position meant I had to be big and heavy, so I was very much into the protein side of food,” Flatman said.

“I was taught from relatively early in my career that eating good food is an investment, so I kind of got into it. 

“And, the real, actual truth is… I can grill a bit of food, I can make a nice meal for people and for myself, but I do mess it up quite regularly. I don't have a brilliant attention span, which was fine when I was a rugby player, not so great in the real world. 

“It's not that I forget that things are above a large fire and potentially burning. Well, it is — it’s that I forget. So, I do mess it up, but I'm committed to the cause and if I overcook something I'll eat it anyway.”

Good food

British TV personality Wallace, meanwhile, first picked up a rugby ball at school and describes himself as a “very passionate” England and Wasps fan.

And, although he is used to tasting some of the finest ingredients in his role as a co-presenter on MasterChef, Wallace still enjoys tucking into a pie when watching a match.

“It’s always bad, but it never matters because you're always absolutely ravenous,” he said of rugby club fare.

“What I regularly get, and I often get playing or even turning up anywhere, is people say to me: ‘I hope this is to your standard’. 

“Well, of course, your expectation goes up and down depending on where you are.

“So, can I say for anybody, whether that's airline catering or rugby club catering, my expectations aren't the same judging professional MasterChef as they are eating pie and chips. 

“And, let me tell you this, for another thing, I've never been disappointed in a fish and chip shop. I've never been disappointed in a kebab shop. I've often been disappointed in a Michelin star restaurant.”

Wallace’s outlook is one shared by two-star Michelin chef Roux Jr, who is an avid Harlequins supporter whose idol was the great France full-back, Serge Blanco.

“You do not go to watch a game of rugby or live sport expecting to be fed Michelin star standard food, but you do expect good food,” he said. 

“There are times when I don't really want to have hospitality and I'd much rather be with the lads and, even at The Stoop, you know, go to the Jolly Hog and… just get a good pulled pork sandwich.

“You bite into that and it's dribbling down your cheeks and, you know, you’re with your mates.”

Inclusive sport

Gemmell and Flatman are also joined on this week’s podcast by ex-Great British Bake Off contestant Tom Hetherington, who rediscovered his love for rugby through LGBT-inclusive club Caledonian Thebans.

“As a gay man myself, I suppose [I] had untested worries about how I would be received on your average local team,” Hetherington, who now captains the Edinburgh club, said. 

“Since then, I recognise that that's absolutely not been a problem, I've got friends who are gay and play for teams all across the city and actually across Scotland. None of them really have ever had an issue. 

“I think rugby is generally a very inclusive sport. But really, our team kind of exists to offer people who maybe loved the sport at school and struggled to feel like they fit in with it, really, at the time.

“I think all sports can feel intimidating if you're not necessarily naturally gifted at it or if you don't feel that you see yourself in some of the other players. And so, really, that's the basis of the team.”

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