WANT to know about landing on your feet? Speak to Martin Shaw. A Premiership title-winner with Newcastle Falcons, he has now moved to Monaco and been called up by the British and Irish Lions.
If that is not enough to make you want to punch him in the face through sheer envy, this week’s Lions call is to play in a ‘sociable tournament’ in the Caribbean – all expenses paid.
The Co Durham native forms part of a Bermuda Classics squad containing 766 full international caps, and even the management have another 153 between them with Lions legend Willie John McBride as president and JPR Williams as team doctor.
If Carlsberg did rugby … Shaw himself admits it is a “surreal experience” he is enjoying, stating: “When people like that are involved you cannot turn it down.”
Far from a gentle knockabout, the annual Bermuda Classic has grown in stature to a competitive tournament featuring the great and good of the game.
Shaw is joined in the Classic Lions squad by World Cup winner Josh Lewsey, Scottish great Gordon Bulloch and Welsh Lion Dafydd James, while opposition squads are laden with stars including Percy Montgomery, Serge Betsen and Bob Skinstad. Aussie rugby league legend Brad Fittler has even snuck his way in there.
Shaw added: “It is a decent tournament, and it is quite an honour to be selected. You can’t say no to the Lions, even if it is not the real ones!”
Sunday’s opening-day skirmish with Canada has them now working their way through the knockout stages ahead of Friday’s final, with Shaw stating: “Before I flew out I looked at the schedule and it seems a sociable kind of week, but then I went on Youtube and the footage showed they like to take it seriously.
“The guys are flat-out flying into each other, and I suppose they got to where they were in their professional careers because they didn’t back down. It is still quite brutal, but it is brilliant to be part of it.”
This week’s Caribbean trip is just the latest chapter in a remarkable period for Shaw who, after retiring from a professional career which saw him representing the Falcons, Sale Sharks and Bristol, went on to successful player-coach stints with Blaydon and Percy Park.
The 36-year-old added: “I was working in the UK and coaching at Percy Park a year ago in August and my friend and former Falcons team-mate Ross Beattie was in the south of France playing rugby for Nice.
“He asked me to come out and experience it for a while and I have been out there for the past 15 months as a personal trainer for ‘Be Fit Monaco’.
Working alongside Beattie and former Newcastle-based strength coach Michael Pellegrino in the principality is a far cry from the County Durham village of Chilton where he was raised, as Shaw himself admits.
He said: “I can sum up living in Monaco in one word – expensive!
“From the supermarkets to going for a drink, everything is expensive but they are catering for people with loads of money. Also, they are keeping it exclusive by pricing a lot of folk out of the market, but it is a different experience and I am having a lot of fun. The weather is amazing – different to back home – and it is a very enjoyable lifestyle despite all the hard work we put in.
“We have great clients, and with being in Monaco it is predominantly the high-rollers and that end of the market we deal with.
“There are celebrities and sportsmen like Jenson Button who come in and train, CEOs of companies and things like that, and they are all down-to-earth people.
“It is enjoyable to work with them, and we have a good laugh as well as working them hard.”
Dusting off his boots this week after a dry period on the rugby front, Shaw admitted: “I haven’t played a single game since I moved to Monaco.
“My last rugby was at Percy Park just over a year ago when we won the Northumberland County Cup final and I was possibly going to do a bit of coaching at Nice before the club went into administration and dropped down a few leagues.
“Apparently it was political, and there is a lot of that in France.”