The world of cosmetic surgery might appear an unlikely line of business for a man who was one of the great rugby warriors.
But that’s where we now find Cardiff Blues legend Xavier Rush.
The former All Black is about to open – of all things – a hair transplant clinic in the Welsh capital.
It’s not the most obvious venture for a big, bruising ex-player, who spent his days banging heads and smashing into people for a living.
But he sees it as very much a business for the modern day in this era of male grooming.
It’s all come about as a result of him having undergone hair transplant treatment himself, and taking the view there was a gap in the market in Wales.
So he has converted the first floor of a building in Charles Street into a clinic, called Head Quarters, which is set to open its doors in August.
As with everything he does – whether it’s his rugby or his property developing – he has totally thrown himself into the project and his passion for it is obvious to see.
Life is busy and full on, with his third child having been born in May, but that’s the way he likes it.
As we chat, he’s a bundle of non-stop energy, bouncing around with a Tigger-like enthusiasm that’s genuinely infectious.
So where does that come from? Well, it goes way back into his childhood in the south Auckland suburb of Manurewa.
“I was brought up by my mum predominantly,” explains the 41-year-old.
“She had five children and I was the youngest. She was working because she had to.
“So I learned from a very young age if I was going to get anything, I had to go and get it myself.
“My mum took me to my first rugby training, but said if I wanted to do it again, I’d have to ride my bike.
“This was as a six-year-old! So I had to ride six kilometres each way in the dark, at the age of six, to do my rugby training.
“It was a tad scary, but I kind of loved it. I had a level of freedom in my life from that age and I could do things for myself.
“I have always loved that independence and freedom.”
He’s also always had a really strong work ethic and a need to keep himself busy.
“When I left school I went pretty much straight into carpentry,” he revealed.
“It was mainly outdoor, physical work. I absolutely loved it.
“I left school just turned 17 and did that for two years.
“I was horrendous at school. I found reading and writing very difficult. I think I had a form of dyslexia.
“I’m not an academic. I learned from doing. I have a relentless work ethic in my pursuit of excellence.
“I can’t sit there and read a book and understand it well enough to do something.
“I have always got to learn a little bit by trial and error, by doing things on the job.”
In his late teens, Rush used to combine his carpentry with playing in the back row for the Auckland Marist team.
“I would get up at 5am and either go for a run or go to the gym,” he said.
“I would then be on the tools by 7.15am. I would leave work at 4.30pm and I would drive to rugby training in the evening four nights a week.
“I would get home at 9pm. Mum would give me some food and I would be asleep just after the last mouthful was eaten.
“That was my normal day for two years to when I became a professional at 19.”
That was when Rush linked up with the Auckland provincial team, soon progressing to the Blues Super 12 side.
But it wasn’t a change of lifestyle that really suited him.
“I went from a full-on day to working like 15 hours a week as a professional rugby player and I was so bored,” he said.
“As a 19-year-old, the last thing I wanted was time on my hands.
“So I went to back to working on the tools.
“I realised I needed to be busy. I was a better rugby player if I didn’t have so much free time.
“If I had something else to put my mind and energy into, I wasn’t sitting there thinking about rugby all day, I was getting better results on the field.
“Plus I was enjoying it.”
Soon, he switched his non-rugby focus to another line of business.
“I started buying properties to do them up. I bought my first one at 21 and I’ve been doing it for 20 years now,” he said.
“I was hands on at the start. Now I’ve got an award-winning team here in Wales, X-Stream Developments, and I generally do a develop,上海品茶QQHarriet,ment about every 18 months.
“The buzz I get from property developing is transforming an unloved building into an exquisite living space.
“It’s about buying something, using your vision and bringing back its former glory.
“It’s no different to what I’m doing here now with hair restoration.”
Which brings us round to his latest entrepreneurial venture.
Its roots – forgive the pun – lie in the latter days of his playing career with Cardiff Blues, where he became an inspirational figure at No 8 during a seven-year stay.
“Going bald doesn’t happen overnight. It’s kind of a drawn-out, slow process where you are looking at it and kind of denying it at the start,” he said.
“But then you see the team photos each year and there’s definitely less hair each time.
“Very few men enjoy the experience of going bald.
“I will be honest with you, it does affect your confidence.
“You start looking in the mirror and you are looking 10 years older, you don’t have that same kind of self-belief.
“I got to a point, at around about 35, 36, where I started thinking there was an option to have treatment, so why not have it.
“Treatments have improved so much from 15, 20 years ago.”
So Rush decided to open his own clinic, offering the same FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) treatment he underwent and also the full range of hair transplants available to men in the UK.
“Basically what happens is they extract each bulb or graft of hair from the side of the head, where the hair has a different genetic structure,” he explained.
“When the hair is replanted in the scalp and regrowth is complete, they are there for good.
“When I had it done, one of my big fears was how would people perceive me, what they would think?
“But these days, cosmetic surgery is becoming so commonplace, especially with women and now with men. There is no social stigma with it anymore, really.
“Men now use moisturisers and want to look good as well. The whole male grooming industry has grown so much.
“Once I had it done, I just owned it. I took to social media to announce it and I was so pleased with the response and support from everyone.”
Explaining how Head Quarters will operate, Rush said: “We have an award-winning clinic manager and two lead surgeons who have come from Harley Street to Charles Street.
“The treatment will be done by a surgeon and three technicians. Our patients will be under an anesthetic.
“When you see yourself with a strong head of hair again, it’s a nice feeling.
“If this goes well, I would definitely like to expand to Auckland.
“This is the type of business you can take to other parts of the world. There are bald men everywhere.
“With this clinic, I have the same ethos as with the properties I have developed.
“I don’t send out bad products.
“I get pride and satisfaction out of delivering exceptional quality.
“I don’t do things half measures. I never have.
“I always strive for excellence.
“It can be a tough thing at times because you are never content, but I always want to do better.”
Which brings us back to his boundless energy.
“I think you are kind of born with it. It’s given to you,” he said.
“I look at my daughter now and she’s exactly the same, she just doesn’t stop.
“I was a handful as a kid, 100 per cent, because I had so much energy.
“I am still a handful now.
“What I can’t stand in life is wasting time.
“I like to be busy, even in my rest. My rest is a game of golf or a game of tennis or going for a walk.”
So it’s little wonder Rush was such a success on the rugby field, given his non-stop energy, constant endeavour for greatness and huge frame.
He earned eight caps for New Zealand, won the NPC competition with Auckland and the Super 12 with the Blues, before heading for Wales in 2005.
Here, he played a pivotal role with Cardiff Blues, becoming a force in European rugby, driving them on to EDF Cup and Amlin Cup triumphs.
So does he hanker after those days,上海品茶工作室Georgie, now that his boots are long since hung up?
“I don’t miss playing anymore, because I could no longer do what I could before,” he said.
“I could just start to feel myself coming off my peak and the second that happened, I didn’t enjoy it anymore.
“I can honestly say in my 16 years of rugby I loved every minute of it.
“The second I didn’t enjoy it, is the second I retired.”
After a year as Blues defence coach, Rush decided to step away from the game.
“I wanted to come away from rugby and focus on business,” he said.
“I don’t watch it much these days, because if I can’t be 100 per cent into it, I don’t want to be 10 per cent into it.
“I don’t want to be sitting here today thinking what I was doing 10, 15 years ago. I want to be 100 per cent into what I’m doing now.
“I don’t live one second in the past, not one second of my life.
“I hate it when people say ‘oh you are the rugby player’. I was, but it doesn’t define me.
“I am really proud of it and one day when I sit still long enough I will look back on it and think ‘wow, that was quite cool’.
“But I am more interested in the right now, what I am doing today and what I am doing tomorrow.
“I am really enjoying life.
“It’s challenging, but I would much rather wake up each day with a purpose than not.
“I have a very understanding partner. She loves bringing up the children and is amazing at it. I love going working.
“So it’s a bit more of a traditional kind of family set-up as opposed to the more modern one these days.”
The Rush family is based in Penarth, with this country having become very much a home from home.
“The Welsh people are gorgeous,” he said.
“We have got Big Brother Australia, you have got Big Brother England.
“We are both the underdog, but we punch miles above our weight with rugby.
“We are kind of Titanic and you guys are as well at the minute, which is great to see.
“We are humble people. You guys celebrate a bit longer than us!
“But Welsh and Kiwis are grounded people.
“You guys came from coal mines, we came from farming background.
“Right from the start, I enjoyed the fact Welsh people could laugh.
“Whatever I do in life, I must be enjoying it first. If I’m not enjoying it, I will last five minutes doing it.
“The first time I met Bob Norster, Dai Young and Gareth Edwards, I just felt something about them as people.
“When you come into a foreign country, it’s quite a big move.
“You are a million miles away from home.
“But I just had an intuition I would get along with the people and I did and I have.”