The London Welsh squad is getting right behind the Club’s women’s player Rebecca Rowe, as she prepares to make for Wales debut against world champions England on Sunday at St Helen’s (KO 2:30pm).
Rowe, a former Great Britain rower who only took up rugby in 2010, will partner Wales captain Rachel Taylor in the second row against England after today being named in Rhys Edwards’s side for the 6 Nations opener.
Rowe was last Friday invited down to Old Deer Park to meet members of the London Welsh squad and its coaches, including head coach Justin Burnell and defence coach Rowland Phillips, whose daughter Carys coincidently also plays for Wales.
Rowe took in a training session and was presented with a ball signed by the London Welsh players and coaches in recognition of her call up, which will see her join a very select group of London Welsh Women’s players to gain international honours.
A cap for Wales on Sunday will complete Rowe’s extraordinary transition from Commonwealth silver medal winner for Wales in rowing, as well being a former world surf lifesaving champion and swimming for Wales, to international rugby player.
“I’m still amazed – my life has gone crazy at the moment,” said Rowe, who may have clinched her place in Edwards’ team with a try in Wales’s recent friendly with Ireland.
“I worked really hard but wasn’t sure whether I was good enough. So I was a real surprise, but obviously an awesome surprise.
“It will be amazing [to get a cap]; I’ve grown up watching rugby and it’s the national sport. To get a cap would be bigger than playing any other sport for Wales, for me.”
From Bridgend, Rowe owes her call up to her own perseverance. Scheduled to take part in the WRU's Talent Identification programme in September, Rowe was forced to pull out after she was unable to get the time off work. Undeterred, however, she rang up Wales head coach Rhys Edwards, who she’d been in email contact with in the lead up to the Talent ID day.
“I was absolutely gutted to miss it, so I thought there’s no harm in ringing up the head coach and just saying ‘I’m not able to make it because of work, but I really am interested. Is there anything else I can do?’ I told him my background and said I’d really would like to have a go and see where I am and if I’m anywhere near the standard,” said Rowe, who plays Number 8 for London Welsh.
It paid off. Edwards invited her along to Wales’s first induction day to test alongside the current Wales squad and those who came through the WRU's Talent Identification programme.
“I wasn’t up with the Wales girls but I was in there and I hadn’t done loads of training and had only been playing rugby at club level and not hugely seriously. So I thought I’d start training more, give it a real go and see what happens. The last three months have been an absolute whirlwind; it’s been crazy.”
A swimmer growing up in Bridgend, Rowe swam for Wales and carried that on to Loughborough University, before taking up rowing in her final year. She went on to row for Great Britain, appearing in world championships, before switching to rugby after a back injury ended her rowing career and in 2010 joined Harlequins.
“I had a lot of friends who were playing for Harlequins at the time. I’d finished rowing and did a bit of kayaking but my back was still playing up, so I was kind of lost in the wilderness of wanting to keep fit and be active but the gym or going for a run was boring. I needed something more competitive,” she said.
“They said come along and give rugby a go and obviously being Welsh I knew about rugby. I’d not played it but I watched it and really enjoyed the game. So I thought why not?”
From Harlequins she moved across the A316 to London Welsh in 2011, and bringing a number of her Quins teammates with her.
“I dragged them over with me; I persuaded them to join London Welsh. I knew a couple of the girls and Harlequins were losing players, and we were really struggling. I thought, maybe it’s time to leave. I wanted to play better rugby and being Welsh it was natural to go there,” explained Rowe.
LWWRFC players to gain international honours
Mary Nettleship – Wales
Rona Yard – Ireland
Cath Bufton – Wales A
Elin Davies – Wales A
Miriam Evans – Wales Development, Wales Touch
Marnie Wills – England Touch
Beth Temple – England Students