You Are Not Alone
When one is forced to retire from actively playing the sport that has dominated their lives for nigh on 30 years through injury, it’s surprising to hear such an individual refer to himself as ‘lucky’. But for David Wallace, one of the most talented players ever to wear an Irish jersey, that’s exactly how he feels.
Most Irish rugby supporters will remember with anguish the sight of Wallace writhing on the Aviva Stadium pitch after a clash during a warm up game with England ended his World Cup dream – and subsequently forced the flanker to call time on his career.
“It was obviously very upsetting not to be going to the World Cup last year – especially when you have worked so hard over the summer and the previous four years to get yourself into shape and contention for a place,” he remembers. “I narrowly missed out on the squad in 1999; in 2003 I was injured and wasn’t really in the running. I did get called out for the last few weeks but I didn’t see any game time that year. 2007 was a disaster all round so I was looking forward to making amends and having a good World Cup this time. I wanted to have something good to say about the tournament for once – it wasn’t to be unfortunately.”
Wallace’s rehabilitation this time around was markedly different to a shoulder injury he suffered in 2001 which briefly halted his career. The move to professional standards have no doubt changed how the game is run here, as well as upping the standards in treatment and care of injured players while they try to regain full fitness and return to the fold. Unlike many of the GAA players that the World Sports Team has spoken too, Wallace, says he never felt like he was on his own. “I wouldn’t say that my rehabilitation was isolating – in fact, it was quite the opposite. I never felt on my own and the back-up and support I received at Munster was fantastic. However, it’s very different now than it was almost a decade ago – you could be forgotten about when you were out injured back then. Nowadays, it’s very different at Munster. Before I got injured I had eight weeks of the hardest training I’ve ever had to do – I was unbelievably fit and I wanted to maintain that throughout my rehab. I was able to do that alongside other lads like Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones who were also out injured around the same time. On top of that, you are still expected to be at the training sessions and team meetings – all of your fitness work and rehab is scheduled with the rest of team activities so you don’t really miss anything.”
Sadly for Wallace, and Munster and Irish rugby supporters, the back row forward couldn’t shake his injury sufficiently and he announced his retirement in May earlier this year as a result. Despite the disappointment though, Wallace can look back on a glittering career that saw him pick up two Heineken Cups with Munster in over 200 appearances for the province, while the top five appearances of his 72 in an Irish shirt will always be the Grand Slam winning season of 2009.
Having had a torrid year with injury, Wallace knows the value of having a support network around to help ease the pain, which is why he is supporting the World Sports Team. “I think the World Sports Team is a great initiative. To have a worldwide organisation that aims to help sports people is a brilliant resource for any individual who suffers injury and I’m proud to support it.”