With long blond locks, skin that is no stranger to moisturiser and a love of designer threads, David Strettle is not your typical rugby player. Currently recovering in the UAE after injury destroyed his chances of starring for England in the World Cup, Matt Slater caught up with the winger to find out why he has been dubbed the David Beckham of rugby.
That is a ridiculous haircut for a rugby player. Opposition players and your colleagues must really give you some grief over that.
They do, and believe me I have heard all sorts from players since I grew my hair. But the thing is that it is easier than having the shorter style I had before. With the training and games, you have to wash your hair about three times a day, and now I don't need to bother with gel and all that stuff.
Rugbyplayers are usually hairy creatures with cauliflower ears and scars all over the place. The British press has said you are changing that image in the same way David Beckham did in football. Guilty?
I like to take care of myself and can take all the jokes that are made. I played football to a decent standard when I was young, but with rugby you really do put your body on the line - there is no room for posers. The social side of rugby is really important, and we go out as a team together all the time.
In football that is not the same and there is more of an individual mentality. Although I look a bit different, I would never do anything that might make me an outsider.
I have turned down commercial deals with beauty products - as I might be seen as trying to hog the limelight.
We heard you were going to be in a shampoo advert.
There was some interest from l'Oreal, but there is no way I could handle the abuse of being filmed washing my hair. There have to be times when you say no to stuff, as it would not be worth the abuse in the changing room.
Do you think that without the injury you could have made a big impression at this year's Rugby World Cup?
I had been playing really well for quite a while and had made the breakthrough into the England team, which is massive for any young player. There are quite a few of us younger lads who are coming through, and some of them play with me at club level for Harlequins, so we know each other well. England is in transition, but the future does look good if we all work hard. At the moment New Zealand are the standard we all need to try and get to, but they can be caught. I am gutted to miss out on the tournament, but have been watching the games.
I am only in my early 20s, so there will be other chances to make a mark on the world stage.
What brings you to the UAE?
Harlequins have done a sponsorship deal with Etihad that involves the players being able to come out and rehabilitate injuries in the sunshine. It's not a bad life, but I do have to do a fair bit of training or the coach will go mad.
Rugby players are getting a lot more mainstream coverage these days, meaning it is not only footballers who are appearing in places other than the sports pages. What do you think the difference is between footballers and rugby players?
One of the things I am glad about is that we are not cut off from the public like most footballers are these days. We really appreciate the fans that come to watch us play every week, and if they want a quick chat or an autograph then that is fine with us. Players like Jonny Wilkinson get mobbed when they go into airports, but he does not ignore people or refuse autographs.
The money in rugby has improved and we are well paid. But we are all aware that we cannot lose touch with the fans, and if anyone did start to get big-headed they would soon be brought back down to earth by the other players. My mum reckons we get paid too much. She is another one who would never let me get above my station and lose touch with reality.For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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