Basham and his son at the Principality Stadium wearing matching Wales jerseys. (Credit: Huw Evans Agency via Taine Basham)

Family a driving force behind Taine Basham’s career success

‘I just had a feeling I had something different to other boys,’ said the Wales rugby player in an exclusive interview

Taine Basham in his Wales kit Credit: Huw Evans Agency

MOST young rugby players in Wales dream of representing their country. This dream became reality for Taine Basham when he debuted for Wales at the age of 21 in the summer of 2021.

Basham’s early years

Basham, 24, grew up in the Valleys with his mum, dad, and older brother, Luke. Taine followed in his brother’s footsteps when he started playing for his local club, Talywain RFC, at the age of eight.

As Basham got older, he played for his comprehensive school in Abersychan and the combined Pontypool Schools team before joining the Dragons Academy aged 15.

His dad, Dai, was his coach during his nine years at Talywain and Basham believes his brutal honesty played a big factor in his development.

“He would always tell me what he really thought, he was always honest with me. He was definitely hard on me. For example, often I would see boys in the team make a mistake and he wouldn’t say anything, but when I made the same mistake, he would not let me get away with it,” said Basham.

Dai got him to play up an age group, so he was always playing with and against boys who were older and bigger than him.

Basham remembers that growing up sharing a passion with his dad was not always easy because he could not escape rugby.

“I did used to get annoyed sometimes. When I would get back from a game or from training, I would try to switch off and not talk about rugby, but I had no choice because it’s my dad’s passion too. He always tells me what I did well but also what I could’ve done better,” he said.

Even though he didn’t see it this way growing up, Basham sees now that all the rugby talk was his dad being supportive.

“My dad is the one person that comes to mind when I think about who has impacted me most in my career. He has obviously had a big part to play, and I do owe a lot to him,” he said.

Dai is also a plasterer by trade, and his mother, Sharon, is a hairdresser. Basham thinks his working-class background is one reason why his parents supported him when he got offered the opportunity to make a career out of rugby.

“I wasn’t great at school; I wasn’t smart or the best behaved. My education isn’t great and that is another reason I am so grateful for my career in rugby,” he said.

Basham’s father encouraged him to get trade behind him, so he got a level one diploma in plastering alongside training at the Dragons Academy. Both his parents wanted him to have something to fall back on if things did not work out.

“My mum and dad do not have well-educated jobs either, but my dad did say to me ‘look, if rugby doesn’t work out’, which has been the case for so many of the boys I have grown up with, ‘you have got to get a trade behind you’. So, just before I went to the Dragons full-time, I went to Pontypool college.”

It is quite an unusual experience for a player to go through an academy and also pick up a trade along the way. It seems Basham was taught to cover all bases.

His professional career

Family helped shape Basham in his early career, but his newest family member is going to help shape the rest. Family was given a whole new meaning to Basham with the birth of his son, Tomas, in December 2022.

Basham and his son at the Principality Stadium wearing matching Wales jerseys. Credit: Huw Evans Agency via Taine Basham

The birth of Tomas has given a whole new purpose to his life and more motivation in his career. It has not been an easy ride though as the birth of his son was followed by Basham spending long periods of time away from home for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

“The hardest thing I have ever done is being away from them for that long. I missed loads, I missed him growing and big moments in his development. But I am home now and hopefully it’s for a while,” he said.

Basham appreciates his partner, Giovanna Tomasulo, for being so hands on with their son, allowing him to focus on his rugby.

“She was a big part of me getting back into the World Cup squad in the summer. I had just got back from injury and had a little boy. She was a huge relief for me,” he said.

As Basham’s career progresses, he finds the mental challenges in rugby harder to cope with than the physical ones.

Basham (middle) pictured after dislocating his elbow in October 2022 against Cardiff Rugby. Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Basham points out that he no longer plays with many boys he shared the pitch with at U20s national level. A total of 11 out of the 25 the boys pictured below either were not offered or no longer have professional rugby contracts.

Basham (third from the left, middle row) with his squad after defeating Ireland in Dublin at the U20 Six Nations, Feb 2018. Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Rugby has always been a cut-throat industry but with cuts to funding from the Welsh Rugby Union in the past few years it is becoming a less secure career choice for young rugby players. 

Less funding in the regions has impacted many players mentally, including Basham. The prospect of losing contracts is especially concerning for young players who have a family to provide for.

“What has been happening over the last few years in Wales with players and contracts has been carnage and it is not fair on any of us,” he said.

In terms of his region, he expressed admiration towards Dragons RFC’s head coach Dai Flanagan and the Dragon’s academy system.

“Dai Flanagan is one of the only coaches I have had that has got to know me on a personal level,” he said.

Basham does not know what his future holds, but he does know that he is grateful for what the career has given him thus far.

He is open to playing abroad with the introduction of the new cap rule which allows players to play overseas after their 25th cap, without losing their eligibility to play for Wales, but he has no plans to do that just yet.

You can get to know him even better through this Q&A video: