International Women’s Day: Welsh rugby heroes from North Wales

Jess Kavanagh (in possession) watched by Rachel Taylor in action for Wales against Canada in the 2017 World Cup

North Wales has produced some outstanding women’s rugby players in recent years who have gone on to represent Cymru at full international level.
On International Women’s Day, we celebrate just a few of them.

Rachel Taylor (Born 13-6-1983)

Capped 67 times for the Wales Women’s rugby team, she made her international debut against Canada in 2007.
Rachel was first named Wales captain in 2012 for the Women’s Six Nations Championship.
She won her 50th cap against Ireland in the 2015 Women’s Six Nations.
Hailing from Penrhynside, near Llandudno, during her top-level career Rachel played either lock or back row for Bristol and Newport Gwent Dragons, also representing Colwyn Bay, Widnes, Chester University, Waterloo and Cardiff Quins.
Colwyn Bay RFC made history in 2018 by appointing Rachel as the first female head coach in their existence.
In 2019, she became the first female Welsh Rugby Union regional academy skills coach, also taking on coaching roles with Crawshay’s and the Barbarians women’s sides.
Last year, Warren Abrahams and Rachel Taylor were unveiled as Wales Women’s groundbreaking new coaching team.
Abrahams is head coach, with Rachel becoming skills coach. She is the first woman to be handed a professional coaching role within the set-up.

Jess Kavanagh (Born 20.2.1990)

Having been capped by Wales at under-17 level, Jess looked set for a career in football until her local rugby club, Bro Ffestiniog, formed a women’s team.
The rest is history.
Left-wing Jess began playing for Bro Under-15’s and after a few years, she was scouted by the Scarlets and was picked for Wales U-20’s.
Unfortunately, a ruptured ACL put Jess out of action for about three years, but on her return Scarlets picked her up pretty much straight away.
In 2015, Jess was selected for Wales Sevens and represented Wales all over the world, in Russia, Dubai, France, and Japan. This put her in front of the Wales 1st XV coaches and her hard work paid off.
She made her full international debut against Italy in the 2017 Six Nations and she has gone on to make 27 appearances in all, earning 19 caps.
Her club career also took in spells at Dolgellau and Caernarfon, while she also represented RGC.
Jess is now at Sale Sharks rehabbing after sustaining an injury in an internal match before the season started.
She is working hard to be fit again for the Women’s Rugby World Cup coming up in New Zealand in September 2021.

Gwenllian Pyrs (Born 28.11.1997)

Gwenllian Pyrs. Picture: WRU

Bangor born prop who has won 14 caps for Wales.
Hailing from Ysbyty Ifan in the Conwy Valley, Gwenllian is a highly talented sheepdog trainer, learning the art on the family farm.
After impressing at regional level in Scarlets’ under-18’s set-up, she earned her first Wales cap against Italy in the 2017 Women’s Six Nations.
Gwenllian has since become a mainstay in the Welsh side, having been involved in all of her country’s autumn Tests last year.
She is also a rugby hub officer at several local schools across the Conwy Valley, where her father, Eryl, was one of the founding members of Nant Conwy in 1980.
Gwenllian signed for Sale Sharks at the end of July 2020.

Molly Kelly (Born 28.9.2000)

Molly Kelly. Picture: WRU

Another Sale Sharks player, Molly signed for the Premier 15s outfit in May 2020.
Born in Bangor, hooker Molly also represents RGC and has won three full Wales caps.
From Rhosneigr, Anglesey, Molly was called up by the senior Wales squad just a few months after her 18th birthday in February 2019.
A former player for Firwood Waterloo, Molly took on Ireland, France and England in the 2020 Six Nations.

Dyddgu Hywel (Born 10.3.1989)

Dyddgu Hywel. Picture: WRU

Full-back who won 31 Wales caps before retiring from international rugby in 2019.
The university lecturer made the decision due to time constraints.
From Padog, near Betws-y-Coed, Dyddgu earned her first Wales cap as a late replacement against Ireland at Aberavon in the opening round of the 2013 Six Nations.
Her rugby career began as an eight-year-old and saw her play for Nant Conwy until the age of 18.
She took time off from the game to attend university, but joined Caernarfon in 2011.
Dyddgu’s form for regional side RGC earned her Wales selection.
Her most memorable moments in a Wales shirt included scoring the opening try in a 10-8 win over France in 2016 and featuring in a famous victory against England the year before.
The North Walian has also played for Worcester, Pontyclun Falcons, Barbarians and Gloucester-Hartpury.

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