The Busch twins are a credit to local rugby

Mark and Paul Busch


Twin brothers Mark and Paul Busch have always been very close and never more so than when they played rugby for Haverfordwest, and for Pembrokeshire youth and senior teams - and even today, even though they have finally stepped down from the oval ball game, they still manage to do most other things together, right up to the fact that when they went for the first covid vaccine jab they were asked to go at the same time on the same afternoon!

Swimming and water polo to start . . .

Paul is the older twin by five minutes and they were asthmatic as young kids so they were advised by their brilliant doctor, Bryn Barton, to take up swimming, which they did together (of course!) - and were so successful that they both swam for South West Wales and played polo for Pembrokeshire.

"Now that was a really tough sport where you had to learn to battle hard because more experienced players weren't afraid to give you some 'physicality' if you were in the way," agreed both twins.

. . . And successful youth rugby followed

But it certainly paved the way for a positive start on the rugby front, as the twins first played with their pals on a patch of grass near their home and some of them got the twins to join Haverfordwest at a relatively late age of 16 and they adapted so well that they were soon selected for a good county youth team that included Ian Wall (Narberth), Huw Morris (Newcastle Emlyn), John Davies (Crymych) and Colin Williams (Tenby).

They were part of a county side that were the first from Pembrokeshire to reach the MK Electrics Cup Final against Glamorgan Youth at Waterston Cross, the home of South Wales Police RFC, but narrowly missed out against a very physical opposition.

"We played in the second row there for three seasons and if we were starting together there was often a look of amazement from opposing teams who didn't know us - and if one was playing and one as a sub then look out," Mark told us, and Paul added his two pennyworth about life in general.

Mark and Paul Busch Mistaken identity - on and off the pitch!

"It was the same in work because when we were older Mark was working as a carpenter in Germany but came back for his son Karl's birth and I was a labourer here but went out instead of him because it was good money and it was only doing mass shuttering work and no-one queried it - and fortunately I wasn't asked to hang any doors!"

When they moved up to senior level it also caused a bit of chaos; like the time in a KO Cup tie in Aberystwyth when they knew Mark would be late because of work and the plan was that Paul should start and Mark would come on later.

But unfortunately Paul was sent off early in the first half for 'over-zealous rucking' and he went off for a shower - and when Mark arrived he got ready to take his place.

It was then that all hell broke loose as the Aber players protested he couldn't come back on because he'd received a red card and when captain Tim Parry explained they were identical twins the ref wasn't amused and wouldn't let Mark start - until Paul was called out of the shower, with a towel draped around his midriff, and his twin was allowed to join the fray as The Blues went on to win!"

Family Matters . . .

As well as the twins' commitment to The Blues it is fair to say that the whole clan are involved in the game because Paul's long-suffering wife of 29 years, Tracey, is a great supporter of everyone else and rarely misses a match, especially now that son Karl is a first team regular and a real chip off the old block, but is not only good in set pieces but likes to score tries.

Paul's daughter  Emma plays in the front row for Pontyclun Falcons, who play in the ladies' premier league, after starting out at Haverfordwest, played a couple of games with Whitland, was in the Scarlets' squad for a couple of seasons and helped them win their section and also reach the cup final before missing out to Swansea. Emma even had one game for Cardiff Blues when they were short and was captain of South Wales University - and enjoyed that too!

Matthew's wife Joanne has also been hugely supportive in their 25 years of wedded bliss and they have daughters Sophie (21) and Kirstie (18), both born on the same date.

Dissent aplenty in the Busch clan - and rightly so!

The family has often gone on holiday together but that bliss was certainly threatened in 2001 when the Busch twins went off for a month to follow the British Lions in Australia but perhaps made things a bit worse in family relationships when they told their better halves that they at least had a nice week in Kiln Park, Tenby!

County regulars for a few seasons

As well as being long-time regulars with The Blues, Mark and Paul also had several seasons playing for Pembrokeshire at senior level, although they say they were just lucky that clubs like Narberth, Whitland and Tenby wouldn't release their players.

"It meant that players like us, Richard Thomas and Neil Watts amongst others from smaller clubs, had the chance to play against Neath at The Gnoll and Swansea at St Helens. The opposing teams inevitably dwarfed us and we had a few thumpings - but there was a great camaraderie and we loved it!"
"There was another terrific spin-off because when the full Welsh squad trained at Saundersfoot and wanted local opposition to practise on it was Trefor James, who had done such good work as a coach at Haverfordwest, sorted out for forwards like us, Andrew Thicker, Richard Thomas and Jack Dudley to help."

Dumped back by Gibbs and Quinnell

"Sometimes they mixed the teams up and I remember packing down alongside Rob Norster,” Mark told us, "and I couldn't stop laughing when Paul tried to tackle Scott Gibbs in full power mode and was literally dumped on his backside."

In acknowledging his being dumped, Paul also recalled when both twins tried to halt the power of Scott Quinnell and failed miserably in a joint tackle as Rob Howley and Neil Jenkin were also involved in training and another great part of the afternoon was the fantastic meal we shared with the Welsh squad at the St Bride's Hotel!"

Cup success with County Junior Union team

As they got a little older the Busch twins also played for the Pembrokeshire Junior Union team and they had success there too because they were part of a team of older players beginning to step down from first team rugby and youngsters trying to force their way in - and won the Jeffrey's Jewellers Welsh Cup by beating their counterparts from Swansea and District at Lampeter, with players in the squad like Wayne Higgon, Dai Owen and Terry Phillips playing as well.

Karl and Paul BuschFinal moments. . .

Mark played his final game for the first team at 50 when he was intending to watch Karl but was hauled out of the car to go on the bench at Aberaeron. It meant that he and Karl played together but Tracey was wetting herself because two weeks later the pair were due to celebrate his birthday in Last Vegas!

Paul and Karl also played together for the seconds against St David's and Paul scored from a quickly-taken tapped penalty and simply smiled at his son.

"But I knew that he wouldn't let me beat him and there was an ever bigger smile from Karl when he ploughed over the line in the second half!"

. . . And a painful memento for Paul

The Busch twins' last match came in the celebration match between the schools of Sir Thomas Picton and Tasker Milward and both would readily admit that it was played at a fast and furious pace.

"Paul dislocated his shoulder and was taken up to Accident and Emergency at Withybush Hospital - and there were already five or six 'walking wounded' in the queue before him," laughed Mark!

What they both agree on is the fact that whilst they loved playing it is very physically demanding now.

"We both squeak a lot more because our joints and bones need some extra oil," say this larger than life set of twins, who have been wonderful ambassadors for the game of rugby in our county