Fantastic news for North Wales sport – Jess Kavanagh is back in the Wales Women rugby union squad.
Just 12 months after her career was threatened by an ACL knee injury, the 31-year-old from Blaenau Ffestiniog has recovered well enough to make the 36 to face Japan, South Africa and Canada next month in the three-match autumn series.
Some impressive displays for Sale Sharks in the early weeks of the season have secured Jess the chance to add to her 19 full Wales caps.
The left-wing endured an agonising spell of uncertainty about her future after her knee gave way in an internal match for Sale on October 4, 2020.
The medical team at Sale initially thought the problem was with her MCL (medial collateral ligament), which came as a relief as it meant she could avoid surgery.
After two weeks’ rest, she was given the go-ahead by the physiotherapist to start light training, but devastatingly, only five minutes in, the knee collapsed again.
She self-funded an MRI scan organised by the club doctor and a few days later was told she had ruptured her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament – which provides vital stability to the knee) and sustained a grade 2 MCL and meniscus tear. A similar injury had occurred earlier in her career.
Heartbroken, Jess again self-funded a visit to one of Sale’s orthopedic consultants, who told her an operation could be arranged privately within three weeks, but would cost in the region of £7000.
Financially unsupported by the Welsh Rugby Union, or her club, Jess had to raise the money herself.
She set up a gofundme page which received some fantastic support from her many friends in the game, raising over half the amount needed.
Jess was eventually able to gather enough funds to cover the cost of the surgery, which proved successful.
Her return to action with Sale Sharks has gone well, but the Wales recall is, she says, something extra special.
On social media today, Jess said: “No words will describe how honoured/happy/excited I am to be back with @WelshRugbyUnion
“A winner is a dreamer who NEVER GIVES UP!”
She thanked everyone who had helped her quest to return to fitness.
Jess is joined in the latest Wales squad by fellow Sharks Lisa Neumann, Molly Kelly and Gwenllian Pyrs.
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.
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 included spells at Dolgellau and Caernarfon, while she also represented RGC.
Grassroots North Wales wishes Jess the very best for the forthcoming internationals.