Wales rugby international whose ‘body was in pieces’ has found a new life

The mind was willing – but Chris Knight finally realised his body just wasn’t going to take any more.

His rugby career had taken him from playing age grade rugby with his local team Mumbles, to touring the world with Wales.

But after undergoing a series of surgical operations, Chris Knight decided enough was enough.

“My body was in pieces,” he said.

“I had gone through so many operations, I just started to think, is the physical pain worth it? I felt as brittle as a greenhouse.

“Rugby had been good to me, and it has taken me all over the world. And I caught the travel bug because of it, which made me think there was something else I could do which would enable me to travel”.

After graduating from Reading University in 2012 with a degree in geography, Chris moved back to Wales and played professional rugby for several years, representing Llanelli Scarlets and Cardiff Blues, and then being picked to represent his country, playing for the Wales Sevens side.

His first tournament took him to Glasgow, followed by trips to play in six different countries across four continents, including Russia, Australia, South Africa, Canada and Dubai, along with the 2013 Sevens World Cup.

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Chris Knight scores the winner for Wales against Canada in the Vancouver 7’s
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

But the relentless pressure of the modern game took its toil.

His operations included three to his shoulder, two to his legs, as well as to a slipped disc, and having to deal with a compressed sciatic nerve.

Having relocated to London for work, he broke his ankle while playing for the world’s oldest rugby club, Blackheath. It prompted him to quit his job with a media company and return to Wales where he started training with Swansea RFC.

But it was while doing squats in the gym that he felt something in his back go.

Chris Knight playing for the Scarlets makes his way past Tim Streather of Saracens during an LV Cup in November 2013
(Image: Getty Images)

“It was a damaged vertebrae which finally forced me to retire” he said.

“It wasn’t diagnosed for a month or two afterwards, and the pain was horrendous. The pain was extreme, and I was in a training session with Swansea and I just walked out.

“I just thought, what is the point? This is not worth what it is doing to my physical health.

“Eventually a surgeon advised me to stop playing professionally, which was a relief in a way, to be told rather than have to make the decision yourself.”

He said he had been blessed playing rugby, however, as it had taken him to all sorts of places.

Utah, taken by former Wales Sevens player turned travel photographer and blogger Chris Knight
(Image: Chris Knight)
Búðakirkja Church in Iceland
(Image: Chris Knight)

“But to stay active and keep my mind off no longer being able to play I escaped into the Welsh mountain ranges of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, and this is where my passion for landscape and adventure photography began.

“My three years spent gallivanting the globe with Wales Sevens also ignited my desire to travel and experience as many different cultures as possible.

“In September, 2018, I purchased my first proper camera and took a year out of work to travel.

“In 2019, I visited 11 different countries and I don’t have any plans on stopping anytime soon, although this year has been totally different because of lockdown.

“I grew up on Gower and always enjoyed being outdoors. I like being out in the mountains and by the sea”.

The Italian Dolomites by Chris Knight
(Image: Chris Knight)
The milky way over Three Cliffs Bay on Gower
(Image: Chris Knight)
Chris Knight climbs the peaks in the Lake District
(Image: Luke Treharne)

Since hanging up his boots, Chris has been able to continue to journey by taking photos for travel companies, including in New Zealand, one of the few places that eluded him on his Sevens career.

And to develop his talents with the camera, both in front and behind, he is also studying for a sports broadcast masters degree at Cardiff Met University, with the hope it will provide more longevity then his time on the pitch.

To see more of Chris’s stunning images visit his website: ohwhataknight.co.uk or instagram page

“I hope the course might help me become a sports or travel presenter,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky with some of the places I’ve been to, and it would be good to develop what I’ve started doing.

“I’ve taken photos of some stunning places.

“But possibly like a lot of people, I’ve got more patriotic as I get older, so I absolutely love taking photos of some of the stunning landscapes we have in Wales.

“I love to showcase Wales and the beauty of the planet we travel on”.

WalesOnline – Swansea