Rugby: Rees ready to sock it to ’em but all in Edinburgh colours

Richie Rees deliberately wore 'odd socks' in the Barbarians' match against Wales
Richie Rees deliberately wore 'odd socks' in the Barbarians' match against Wales
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Welsh internationalist Richie Rees has pitched up at Murrayfield fresh from making a form of rugby history and determined to create plenty more in the colours of the Edinburgh club he joins from Cardiff.

The nine-times capped scrum half, 29, signed as cover for the departing Mike Blair, debuted for the renowned Barbarians side against his native Wales at the Millennium Stadium last weekend in a manner never previously seen, albeit in a sartorial sense.

Committed to honouring the Barbarians tradition of wearing club socks as part of an ensemble that includes the legendary black and white hooped jersey, when Rees couldn’t decide on whether to show allegiance to the club out of which he gained his caps or new employers he hadn’t yet represented a compromise quickly presented itself. “I decided to wear one of Cardiff’s socks and one of Edinburgh’s,” grinned Rees.

And the man who came off the bench to figure in that astonishing injury-time fightback by Wales to beat Scotland in the 2010 match that marked Chris Paterson’s 100th cap added: “I actually had a ‘phone call from the Dunvant club in Swansea that started me off playing and where I used to be a ball boy, aged five, asking if I’d consider wearing their socks for the Baa-baas.

“Initially I went for Edinburgh’s and asked (team manager) Lindsay (Dingwall) to send me a couple of pairs which is when my dad stepped in and suggested I really should show a bit of loyalty to Cardiff as well. TV commentator Jonathan Davies had a bit of a field day pointing out my unique ‘pair’ was probably something that hadn’t ever been seen before as part of the Baa-baas kit!”

On a serious note Rees, whose Baa-baas debut had actually come from off the bench in a win over Ireland in Gloucester a few days earlier, feels he comes with recent experiences that can benefit Edinburgh.

“I was disappointed not to play in a winning Baa-baas team against Wales (he scored a try) but that was maybe partly due to the fact we kept to the Baa-baas script by running a few kickable penalties and, besides, how could you not be a better player for partnering at half back Steven Donald (the All Blacks world cup winning stand off) and operating under the captaincy of (South Africa’s World Cup winning skipper) John Smit?

“Now it is all about having a good pre-season with an Edinburgh side I have long admired for their open style of play.

“I like the fact Edinburgh want to move the ball and play what is in front of them.

“Also, with good young players coming through, exciting times lie ahead and after more than 100 games for Cardiff Blues including Amlin and EDF Cup finals I felt it was maybe time for a change.

“The offer from Edinburgh came in and I have happy memories of making a debut at Murrayfield for an Ospreys side captained by Todd Blackadder.

“After that (coach) Michael Bradley’s chat swung it and since arriving on Monday it has been all about speed testing, fitness work, trying to find wi-fi and dodging traffic wardens as I find my way around the city.

“So far I have managed to take four different routes to Murrayfield this week but I’m sure things will improve.”

Besides that 31-24 win over Scotland in 2010 when the visitors led by ten points with three minutes remaining, Rees figured in the most unique Heineken European Cup tie of all time. That was the 2009 semi-final with Leicester Tigers which finished 26-26 then went to a penalty shoot-out. “That’s another of my rugby memories especially as I managed to sidefoot my penalty over the bar only for Cardiff to eventually miss out on a place in the final,” recalled Rees who has hopes of taking his taking his Welsh cap haul into double figures at Edinburgh. “I’m not sure it’ll help my international ambitions to be playing outside Wales but I am certainly keen to do that and as long as I’m consistent in my contributions to Edinburgh then hopefully that will count for something back home.”

No matter how he fares, though, he is constantly having to battle for celebrity status in his own family where award-winning actress Joanna Page is his cousin.

“Joanna is from my mum’s side of the family and appeared as Stacey in Gavin and Stacey as well as the film Love Actually,” said Richie.

Additionally Joanna has starred in panto as “Cinderella” though as his admirable international and club record shows Richie Rees undoubtedly has a better track record when it comes to getting to the ball.