One of best prospects in Welsh rugby with plenty still to give now facing life on building site

-Credit: (Image: Ryan Conbeer)
-Credit: (Image: Ryan Conbeer)


Rewind to 2022 and the world was at Ryan Conbeer's feet. The then 23-year-old had enjoyed a stellar season for the Scarlets and had been called up to train with the Wales squad ahead of their summer tour to South Africa.

Conbeer was regarded as one of the best prospects in the Welsh game after bursting onto the professional scene with a stunning try from inside his own half as a teenager to help the Scarlets beat Ulster back in 2019. But such is the precarious nature of professional rugby that two years on from training for Wales, Conbeer has been released by the Scarlets and is facing up to the very real possibility of starting the 2024/25 season without a contract.

"I only found out recently I wasn't going to be offered a new contract by the Scarlets," Conbeer tells WalesOnline. "They told me the budgets are quite low and they aren't going to be able to offer me anything.

"Considering how late it's been compared to other years I knew deep down there was probably nothing there for me. I went to have a sit-down with Dwayne Peel and he then said it's very unlikely they'd be signing me up again because the budgets are going down which means the squad sizes will have to go down.

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"Once they made the final call it was a realisation of 'I have to find something else pretty quickly'. Nothing has really come about at the minute and I'm still waiting.

"It's very late in the season and a lot of clubs have done all their recruitment by now. It is a worry that I'm not going to have a job come July.

"It probably only kicked in a couple of weeks ago that come July I literally could be jobless. It's kicked in a lot now and it's really weird going onto job sites and looking for jobs."

Conbeer is the latest victim of Welsh rugby's dire financial situation which is likely to see playing budgets drop to as low as £4.5m at all four regions next season. Unfortunately players like Conbeer, who have been on the fringe of the international squad, are the ones who tend to miss out on contracts in Wales.

There are many people who still think the life of a professional rugby player is a glamorous one but this is far from the truth, especially in the current economic climate which has seen three English Premiership clubs go to the wall over the past couple of years. So, what has Conbeer got planned?

"If I can't find another contract I'll probably play semi-pro in Wales and I've spoken to a few clubs," said the 25-year-old. "I'd have to have a job on the side. I'm just going to try to keep myself fit and if something comes about later on, say if there's an injury at a pro club and they need cover then I might pick something up.

"At the minute it's looking like I'll have to play semi-pro rugby with a job as well. Steff Hughes is a prime example of how to deal with a situation like this.

Ryan Conbeer has now left the Scarlets -Credit:© Huw Evans Picture Agency
Ryan Conbeer has now left the Scarlets -Credit:© Huw Evans Picture Agency

"He didn't have a contract after being released by the Scarlets at the end of last season but he kept himself fit and eventually got a chance with the Dragons. I know Steff very well and people have been telling me not to get too down about it because Steff got something later on.

"I've just got to keep myself fit and in good shape because something might come later. I've got a partner and a two-year-old daughter who rely on me so it's obviously a concern having to pay for childcare and things like that.

"A lot of people wouldn't really understand what we go through as professional rugby players and the struggles of it. Within professional rugby you're very lucky if you get a two-year contract these days.

"So, you are only safe for those two years and after that there's a good chance you'll have to move clubs or become jobless which is what I'm going to be in July. It is scary but I've spoken to the WRPA officers, family and friends who have all been really supportive.

"They've given me options just in case nothing comes along. I've got a good family background in construction.

"I've worked on a building site when I was younger as a labourer for my dad. A lot of people say they wouldn't enjoy being on a building site but I'd enjoy it.

"All my family have been in it so I'd probably go back to that."

Conbeer still has plenty of offer as a professional rugby player with his 28 tries for the Scarlets pointing to his quality as a finisher.

The man from Tenby, who was English-qualified through his father before getting captured by Wales Sevens in 2019, is a powerful runner with pace to burn, while his defence is solid. He has real X-factor going forward with the ball in his hands and more often than not beats the first defender.

"I just feel like I'm still early in my career," he said. "I've played over 80 times for the Scarlets but I still feel like I'm young with a lot to offer other clubs.

"If you look at clips of me playing one of my main attributes would be carrying with the ball. I tend to make yards pretty much every time I have the ball.

"I'm working hard on the things I'm not as good at and I'm eager to learn. New coaches might help me take my game to another level.

"I still feel like I've got a lot to offer as a professional rugby player. I've scored a decent amount of tries for the Scarlets and Wales U20s.

"To be fair I've also been all right with injuries. Last season I played 24 of 25 games and started around 20 of them. Last season was a good year which is why this season has shocked me a little bit with me not playing much.

"I'm still hugely motivated to continue as a professional rugby player and I think I have a lot to offer other sides. Of course I'd love to stay in Wales with another region but I'm open to playing in England or France as well provided my family are happy."

As we wrap up the interview Conbeer is keen to get one last point across. "I'd like to say to any youngsters out there who are in the early stages of their rugby career to get more qualifications while you are still young," he said.

"When I was a teenager in the Scarlets academy I wouldn't be thinking my rugby career would come to an end at 25. I would advise any young rugby players, or even someone in their mid-20s because it's not too late to get some qualifications, so you've got something to fall back on."

The next few months will be a real test of the 25-year-old's resilience but he is far too good a player for the professional game in Wales to turn its back on.