Tim Swinson might just be Scotland’s most exciting player as the surprise pick for the Rugby World Cup 2015. The Latitude Magazine join him for a chat about playing for Scotland, his future, and why he loves LAT_56.
I walk into the pub and see a broad-shouldered, 6’4 rugby player standing at the bar. Having done my research, I’d expected Tim Swinson to be tall but it’s not every day that you meet someone this tall. Soon he’s telling me about what it’s like to play in the World Cup, how the Dandy comic character Winker Watson changed his life, and why he’s recently purchased the LAT_56 Red Eye Garment Bag.
Tim has just come from rugby practice and is famished, ordering steak that is served with chips and a salad. A seasoned athlete, he has no problem tucking into his meal as I sip on my latte and ask him my questions.
“A few years ago, I would’ve never had those chips,” Tim tells me after he’s finished his meal and leans back in his seat. “You can have too much discipline as an athlete. You have to find that balance between doing what you should and doing what you want. You get to a point where you can do both.”
Tim’s attitude comes from years of experience, culminating in playing for Scotland at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the biggest rugby tournament to date with over 2.47 million ticket sales and television audiences estimated to be in the billions.
For a rugby player, playing in the Rugby World Cup is as good as it gets. So you can imagine how disheartening it was for Tim when he sustained a major ankle injury just months before the start of the tournament. Although he recovered quickly and was back on the field just eight weeks after surgery, Tim had already accepted he’d lost his chance to play for Scotland. So when the call came, he was caught completely off guard. It didn’t help that he’d just returned to the UK from playing in Canada.
“I hadn’t slept in 30 hours and was just trying to stay awake. When the Scotland coach called me, I thought it was a joke.”
But Vern Cotter was absolutely serious. A few weeks later, Tim was taking the field in his first Rugby World Cup match. Later that week, Scotland won against the USA, and then against South Africa and Samoa.
In their fifth game, Scotland was set to take the game against Australia, entering the final minute of the game with the lead. If they won, they would enter the semi-finals. Then, at the very last moment, the referee awarded a highly controversial penalty to Australia. When the clock hit zero, the final score was Australia 35 – 34 Scotland, and the referee, needless to say, made a quick and hasty exit from the stadium.
Morale after the game must have been low and perhaps even more so now because Australia made it to the finals (they ultimately lost the title to New Zealand). However, Tim doesn’t waste time bemoaning the loss. He’s more focused on the Six Nations Championship starting in February and continues to be grateful for the opportunity to play in the World Cup at all.
So what is playing in the Rugby World Cup like?
“It’s living one of those moments you’ve dreamt of as a child.”
Since the age of 12, Tim wanted to be a professional rugby player when he grew up, so achieving that dream 16 years later must have given him – what he describes with characteristic British restraint as – “quite a strong feeling.” “You feel pretty good about yourself – that level of international rugby never becomes ‘normal’, but you do at least know what to expect!”
At 28, Tim is in the prime of his rugby career. While a player could continue playing until he’s 40, Tim thinks he’ll be retiring in his early to mid-30’s and is already gearing up for the change. For one, he’s purchased the LAT_56 Red-Eye Garment Bag to field him through the transition.
Retired rugby player and friend Graeme Morrison, who also played for the Glasgow Warriors, turned Tim on to LAT_56. Tim saw Graeme’s Red Eye Garment Bag as the perfect suit carrier for post-game dinners, weddings, and his professional life after rugby. With many of his friends getting married, as well as himself this past August, Tim decided to make the investment in LAT_56, which he believes is a bag he will continue to use for many years to come.
“It’s really mobile and I like the look,” Tim says of his travel bag. Being the built athlete he is, it can be difficult to find a garment bag that can fit his wide clothes, “But it fits those really well,” Tim explains.
Despite his successful athletic career, Tim still feels he has much more to do. With his eye on the future and Red Eye in hand, Tim is contemplating going into lobbying and returning to his interest in politics, which he studied at university. Although I ask Tim about coaching, the burly young man doesn’t see it in his future. “I couldn’t deal with coaching,” he says, explaining that it’s a tough field to get into, is less predictable with a demanding lifestyle, and that ultimately you train your players all week but then all you can do is watch them play.
Instead, Tim wants to be in the game rather than on the sidelines. While he originally wished to become a Member of Parliament, he wants to engage with politics at the national level and affect change, which he believes he would be better placed to do as a lobbyist. He’s particularly passionate about educational reform.
As a child, Tim got it into his head that he wanted to go to Eton, the UK’s premier all boy’s school, because the protagonist from his favourite comic Winker Watson went to boarding school. Although his parents never intended sending him away for school, Tim worked hard, passed the exams, and then chose to go to Oundle School. There, his favourite subject was Latin, taught to him by a magnetic teacher who lured his students in with tales of ancient Roman battles and the story of the Trojan Horse. He must have been some teacher, as Tim is still able to recite his declensions, perhaps more to his amazement than my own.
It was also at Oundle that Tim began playing rugby, crediting boarding school with the start of his successful career. Today, Tim is probably as close to a Roman warrior as you can get. After all, he plays rugby internationally. Which means this: “You know that one guy on the team who is the best at everything, he’s the fastest, he’s the strongest. When you play internationally, everyone on the team is that guy. Nothing can prepare you for it.”
Tim recalls being “absolutely knackered” after his first international game, “I was absolutely broken.” But after that first match he says you adjust to that new level and it becomes normal.
At the moment, Tim seems to be enjoying this stage of his career and the opportunity to play internationally and against players from different cultures. He describes the Japanese as brilliantly structured, while the South Africans are extremely physical and “will run over the top of you.” The Fijians are very expressive, while New Zealand – “They’re just good at everything.”
I try to ask Tim about the next Rugby World Cup, which will be held in Japan, but he’s too modest to think that far ahead in rugby terms. “I hope so,” he says humbly. While he may be preoccupied with thoughts about his life post-rugby, Tim continues to his take his rugby career one step at the time. And perhaps that helps explain his success, focused more on hard work than the expectation that he will inevitably succeed.
After all, he has a pretty hefty family motto to live up to, which says, “Always try to improve upon the previous generation in your family.” Having achieved his childhood dream before the age of 30, I have very little doubt that we’ll be hearing much more from Tim Swinson in years to come.