LEWIS BEAN may play for a team called the Warriors, but after a decade in the Army he is very aware of the difference between actual conflict and what happens out on the rugby pitch. Two tours of duty in Afghanistan made him very much aware of that.
So when it came to the past few weeks and the usual gruelling pre-season routine at Scotstoun, the 29-year-old knew precisely what to say to any team-mates with a tendency to feel somewhat sorry for themselves. As one of the biggest members of the Glasgow squad, the second-row forward would normally be thought of as someone for whom pre-season was especially arduous. But his experiences in the armed forces have helped him put such things in perspective, and, he says, have helped him maintain a sense of humour which can come in very useful when you are part of a team.
Now a full-time member of Danny Wilson’s squad after being on loan from Northampton Saints for a spell last season, Bean hopes to be in the match-day 23 to take on Newcastle in Friday evening’s home pre-season friendly. The match against the Falcons will be a signal to the squad that the hard graft of recent weeks is now almost behind them – although Bean is never slow to remind them that it is not all that hard really.
“I try and shed some light on it, and say: ‘Look, it’s not that bad, it’s only for a couple of hours’,” he said yesterday at Glasgow’s kit launch for next season. “Pre-season is tough, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and you get fed every day and you get looked after, so it’s actually pretty good.
“In the Army, basic training is non-stop. You can never relax. When I joined up at 18 it was a big shock. You’re literally at the mercy of the instructors and you can’t switch off and you’re getting absolutely thrashed.
“I was actually going to leave at one point. But I was just like: ‘You know what? I’m going to stick with it.’ And I’m glad I did.”
One reason for that gladness is his belief that habits and values he acquired in the Army still stand him in good stead. “I think I’ve got a bit of leadership there, and probably a hard work ethic,” he continued. “No matter how tough it is going to be or how bad it gets on the pitch you just have to keep going and keep moving. I’ve been in some situations working with the Army and you’re always in a team.
“I think you bring a bit of humour as well. They’ve got to have a good laugh at work and try and make people smile. If people are not happy being there, then what’s the point in doing it?”
After spending most of his adult life so far as a soldier, Bean is still attached to 2nd Battalion, the Rifles, for some duties such as recruitment. Thankfully, as he recalled, those duties are altogether less demanding than the ones he had during his tours in Afghanistan, where he had experiences that put the odd bit of training-session discomfort into perspective.
“My first tour was in Helmand Province back in 2011,” he continued. “And my second tour, I think it was three years later, was in Kabul. So it’s quite interesting listening to the news about places I’ve been and it’s now all over-run – it’s pretty crazy.
“In 2011 we were down in Helmand, trying to push the Taliban out. 2011 was pretty full on, if I’m honest.
“It was pretty scary. I think I was 19 when I went over there. There are so many contacts – which are fights – out there that you get used to it.
“We lost lads out there. It is pretty tough. But obviously you’ve got a job to do and you just get on with it really. It’s not nice when lads get hurt or get killed, but you just kind of crack on and get through it.”
On his second tour, Bean’s role was more about helping to train the Afghan army rather than confronting the Taliban directly. That army no longer exists, and, while loath to become too involved in a discussion about the politics of the country, he admitted that recent events have been dispiriting, to say the least.
“I don’t really know what to say,” he continued. “I think it’s a bit of a shame really. All the hard work that was put in and all the money that was spent and lives lost, it’s a bit of a shame. But people get paid a lot more money than me to make bigger decisions than me. I just had to do what I’m told. It’s a bit frustrating, but at the end of the day it’s just one of those things.”