Benjamin Kayser, a former teammate of the late Christophe Dominici who took his own life last week at the age of 48, has paid the France great a tremendous tribute while appearing on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod. The 37-cap France hooker grew up with a poster of Dominici on his wall before graduating into the Stade Francais set-up and being in the same dressing room with his hero.
Twelve years younger than Dominici, who signed off from Test rugby with France in 2007 with 67 caps, Kayser only retired from playing in June 2019 and his own difficult adjustment to life outside the game has left him believing more now needs to be done to help retired players following the tragedy involving Dominici, who jumped to his death in a Parisian park.
Paying tribute to Dominici during an appearance on The Rugby Pod with Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton, Kayser passionately described his own retirement situation before reminiscing about his fallen colleague and explaining why help is needed post-rugby, especially in France.
“With the intensity of the physicality, we’re special animals. We thrive on that pressure, we thrive on hitting people,” he said about being a rugby player. “I finished on June 16, 2019, and I was like, ‘Stuff it, I’m going on holiday. I’m not doing anything’.
“I wasn’t training at all. After five weeks my wife said you have got to do something. You’re losing your s***. I was getting regrettable. You lose your temper pretty quick. You get frustrated very quick just because normally day in day out, after a scrum session I was pretty chilled. My body was a wreck and that outlet I didn’t have any more.
“I have been thinking a lot about the fact that if we are brothers on the pitch we need to be brothers after. France is maybe not a good example of that. They take you in, chew you up and chuck you out. There are a few examples of guys that really scare me because I didn’t know where they were going.
“Domi was an extraordinary human being. He was charismatic, flamboyant, incredibly smart. He was tiny, absolutely tiny, but chuck a ball in the middle of the room and he would tear to pieces any big fella. He was the type of guy I would have followed anywhere.
“I can’t say that I was friends with him because I had too much respect and I had a poster of him growing up and falling in love with rugby. I fell in love with Stade Francais because that is where I started when I was 14 and he was the man. He was killing it every weekend. There was the ’99 World Cup, the semi-final at Twickenham that everyone remembers, and that is who he was.
“But he was the type of guy who would never motivate the guys by telling them you should take this right-hand pass this way and do this ice bath. He was, ‘Strap a pair on, show everybody how big your balls are and just follow me. If you follow me nothing will ever happen to you’.
“I was thinking this guy is so small but he is so driven, so passionate, so full of confidence that I have to do ten times what he does. That was his way of being a leader. Especially when I was young he helped me a lot. Like, he would never speak to me when things were going right but every time he saw I was pretty much s****ing myself at the beginning of my career, the mental aspect especially with lineout throwing.
“Playing rugby is easy but going back to the lineout, the stress of the crowd, the people, whatever… he was the type of guy who would just put his hand around your back and say just follow me, you will be alright. He would crack you a joke, talk about going out, doing whatever it was just to get your mind off things and to me he was brilliant.
“I didn’t have any boots at the time. That night he called the Nike guy, got me a contract with them for the next five years. I tried to say thanks by giving him a bottle of wine. He chucked it back into my car and said this is the last time you try to give me something. He just gave everything, never asked for anything back.
“He was just a brilliant dude, a brilliant dude that filled the cracks of a post-rugby career with s***, that struggled to find something exhilarating enough to fill those gaps of this mental side. We need an outlet, we need something and he didn’t get it unfortunately and what happened this summer was just a bit too much to swallow.
“He was the frontman for these Qatari investors who were going to buy Beziers, an old legendary French club and take them back from the second division… the mayor of Beziers hated to see that those Qatari were here so there was a bit of that political side of rugby that we don’t like.
“The project ended up being chucked in the bin because they didn’t trust the investors. He [Dominici] took that really badly because he was the face of it. He was sort of made to look like a fool a little bit… and then this s*** happened.”
"I’m watching him referee the scrum, it was nothing worse than shocking"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 1, 2020
Top-quality chat from former French International and Jim's new English teacher @BenjaminKayser on this week's episode?
Have a listen ?
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) December 1, 2020
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