This week Bill Carne popped up to the Farm Shop in Bethesda, near Narberth, to find out about Geraint Bowen receiving his Welsh cap after playing against Canada – 34 years after he had played alongside the likes of Bob Norster, Richard Moriarty, Eddie Butler and Brynmor Williams . . .

Rugby folk across Pembrokeshire will be delighted to know that Geraint Bowen is now the proud holder of his Welsh Rugby cap after receiving it before the match against Fiji in recognition of his playing against Canada 34 years ago.

It was presented by Dennis Gethin, the President of the WRU, in front of 300 at the celebration dinner in the Millennium Stadium, with Gordon Eynon and Johnnie Jones, the current and former District H representatives, there to cheer him on, alongside his family.

When he went out to Canada, Geraint was just 24 years of age and after setting out with Narberth was rightly regarded as one of the best young full backs to emerge for some time, coming at the end of his first season with Llanelli.

At the time the Welsh players weren’t capped against the likes of Canada and the USA, both of whom the Welsh team played in 1980, and who awarded caps to their players.

But this omission has finally been put right and they will be known as ‘President’s Caps’, with Geraint and Co receiving theirs as part of the celebrations before the game against Fiji.

It will complete a ‘cap double’ for Geraint because in his twilight years he went on to play alongside Brian ‘Beaky’ Davies (Crymych) in a Welsh Districts XV that played and won in Holland

But it is that trip to North America that will always linger in Geraint’s memory because he was initially surprised to be selected because he was relatively inexperienced at the top level of Welsh club rugby and joined the likes of Eddie Butler, Bob Norster, Steve Fenwick, Richard Moriarty, Brynmor Williams and Alan Donovan in a strong squad that had John Lloyd as coach and Rod Morgan as team manager.

“We had several squad training sessions in Cardiff during the weeks before we left,” Geraint told us, “and we were given our playing and training kit, alongside our blazers, ties, shirts, slacks and shoes.

“It was such an exciting time before we flew out for five matches in four weeks, including the two internationals, and although I missed out in the international against the USA, which Wales won, I played in two of the midweek matches and kicked a few points.

“When the team was announced for the match against Canada I was over the moon and although we knew the opposition were being capped we had to settle for keeping our shirts – and I was given a Canadian one by one of their players.

“Before the mach I was very moved whilst listening to the national anthem, sung by Jack Williams, and Steve Fenwick’s long-range kicking kept us ahead in front of a good crowd where some huge Welsh vocal support came from a touring party from Tenby United.

“I joined Gary Pearce and Gwyn Evans as back-up kickers but we weren’t needed because Fenwick was on top form – and I was just delighted to end up on the winning side. When I got back I presented my Welsh jersey to Narberth RFC and I am proud to see it on the clubhouse wall, alongside the Canadian one I also had.”

At this stage of his career, Geraint had everything to look forward to at the start of the next campaign but on the 20th of September, whilst playing for Llanelli against the Harlequins at Twickenham, he thought he had suffered a dead leg but didn’t want to come off because players were vying for selection against the All Blacks at Stradi Park a few weeks on.

“But when I tried to put pressure on my toes it was agony and so sponge man Bert Peel took me off – and as I limped around the pitch a consultant with the Rugby Union popped up, felt my leg and said he thought I had broken it!

“He popped off to get a second opinion and another gent from Harley Street confirmed his diagnosis – and so I was off to hospital for a lengthy spell out of action.

He battled hard to return but at the start of the next season he had to have a cartilage operation – and even worse was to follow because when Geraint played in a special match against Swansea at Aberystwyth, alongside Narberth colleagues Andrew ‘Mounton’ Phillips and Glyn Jones, both studying in the seaside Mid Wales’ town, he broke his leg again.

“This time I knew it was broken straight away and my wife Sian told me she could hear the snap 50 yards up the touchline.

“Everyone told me I should retire but Sian knew how much playing meant to me and said it was totally my decision but she thought I should give it a go with Narberth again.”

So when he was eventually out of plaster he decided he could return at Narberth’s level and although it wasn’t the same as playing at the very top he enjoyed captaining the Otters for a number of seasons, including a league and cup double against Tenby at Bierspool which took them into the National Leagues.

“I played with some wonderful players at the Lewis Lloyd Ground and I also had a great time playing for the Pembrokeshire team which played in the Welsh Counties Cup.

“I am proud that at 17 I was the youngest player to make his county debut and I have my badge for representing them so often. I am also the only player to take part in three Welsh Counties Cup Final victories and I played in the county team that beat the Japanese national team at Haverfordwest.”

Geraint played one season with Whitland before he finally hung up his boots and he also coached Narberth for a period of time where again he worked with some quality players who gave him total support.

But then one of the best rugby players to come out of Pembrokeshire for many years stepped out of the limelight and is now focussed on the Farm Shop that he and Sian run at Bethesda Cross near Narberth.

She has provided superb support over the years and so it was really appropriate that she joined Geraint at the Millennium Stadium, along with son Aled and daughter Catrin, as he received that coveted Welsh cap from Mr Gethin.