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The Cardiff hooker balancing an extra job with pro rugby

By Simon Thomas
Liam Belcher of Cardiff Rugby is tackled by Bradley Roberts of The Dragons during the BKT United Rugby Championship match between The Dragons RFC and Cardiff Rugby at Rodney Parade on October 29, 2023 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

Liam Belcher is a man who lights things up wherever he goes.

On the pitch, he’s been an illuminating presence for Cardiff Rugby this season, shining brightly with his endeavours at hooker and he will be a key figure once more in Saturday’s BKT URC clash with Connacht at the Arms Park.

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Then, away from rugby, he’s a sparky character in a different sense, working part-time as an electrician.

Given the uncertain nature of the sport as a profession, the 27-year-old feels it’s important to have an alternate career to fall back on.

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Scotland fans react to dramatic finish in the Six Nations to France

Finlay was on the ground at Murrayfield to find out what the fans thought about that tight finish between Scotland and France.

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Scotland fans react to dramatic finish in the Six Nations to France

Finlay was on the ground at Murrayfield to find out what the fans thought about that tight finish between Scotland and France.

“It’s something I have got there and I know, if I had to finish tomorrow, that would be my first port of call, to go down that route,” he says.

“It’s nice to have that in place already. I am quite fortunate.

“When I work on my days off, I get a grasp of what it’s like to be in work. I wouldn’t call this work. I never do. I always say it’s training and it’s fun.

“When I go on the tools, it’s 8-5 or something. It gives me a different perspective on life, how lucky we are here. Our longest day here is sometimes 3pm. In for 8, done by 3. It’s not as hard as a physical day on the tools.

“Working as an electrician literally does keep me grounded. I like it because it gives me a nice break from rugby. I can’t be thinking about lineouts and stuff like that when I’m doing wiring or fixing a light socket!

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“I try to do one day a week in pre-season and then at least a couple of days a month in the busier times of the campaign. Then I am doing my exams and courses as well.

“I have got most of my qualifications now and I’m going to do my renewable energy courses next.

“I want to keep as many doors open as I can and then, when the time comes, pick and choose.”

On the sporting front, Rhondda-product Belcher actually started out in football.

“I played as a striker first, then I went to defender and then I got too heavy, so I had to go play rugby when I was about 10 or 11,” he recalls.

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So does he show off his skills if a football is ever brought out in training?

“I am awful, I am really bad. You don’t need to worry about that. There was no future in that for me!”
Coming up through the junior ranks at Treorchy RFC, he started out at prop, then had a stint in the centre, before settling on hooker from about 14 onwards.

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Called up to the Cardiff Rugby academy, he went on to gain experience with Pontypridd RFC, before making his regional debut in 2014, with Wales U20s honours to follow, notably a try-scoring contribution to a win over England in February 2015.

After a season-long spell with the Dragons, he returned to the Arms Park in 2018 and steadily established himself in the senior squad.

With Kristian Dacey and Kirby Myhill having moved on at the end of last season, he is now very much the most experienced hooker in the squad, his tally of appearances standing at 74.

“It’s a bit of a weird one. You go from still being relatively young within the group and I’m now one of the oldest,” he says.

Belcher has started all but three of Cardiff’s matches this season and has captained the side on a number of occasions, his value being recognised with the awarding of a new long-term contract last month.

One of the real unsung heroes of Welsh rugby, he is now starting to get the plaudits he deserves for his set-piece solidity, game intelligence and ability with ball in hand.

“I just do my thing on the field and hopefully that speaks for itself. I love the game,” he says.

“It’s a team-first mentality here. That’s the big thing we are driving.”

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Cardiff lie 12th in the BKT URC table with three wins and a draw from their nine league matches, while they lost all four group fixtures in the Investec Champions Cup.

“We haven’t got the results we wanted, but we have been very competitive and shown we can throw punches with the best,” said Belcher.

“When you think back to last summer, we had just eight boys training, playing four v four touch games.

“It’s mad how far we have come as a team and it’s something we can reflect on positively.

“We have grown in confidence as a squad and the young boys have been outstanding. It’s a great group to be part of.

“We play some really attacking rugby, which is what people want to watch, as you can see from the crowds we have had.

“Hopefully there will be another big one now for the Connacht game.”

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Jon 3 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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