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Rebecca honoured to swap boats for boots.

Byline: Huw Silk Reporter

SHE has rowed for Great Britain, is a champion surf lifesaver and has even swum for Wales.

And yesterday afternoon Rebecca Rowe went from rowing to the second row by making her international rugby debut.

Her place in the Welsh side for the Women's Six Nations opener against world champions England was made all the more extraordinary as she took up rugby only five years ago - because she was too injured to continue rowing.

Her first international start ended in disappointment when she was taken off early in the first half with an injury.

But she was on the winning side as Wales recorded a 13-0 win - just their second victory ever over the Red Rose.

The 33-year-old London Welsh player, who is originally from Bridgend, added another feather - or, perhaps more accurately, three - to her cap in the clash at St Helen's in Swansea yesterday.

And she said prior to kickoff that a first international rugby appearance would get top billing in her extensive personal highlights reel. Rowe said: "I'm still amazed - my life has gone crazy at the moment.

"I worked really hard but wasn't sure whether I was good enough. So it was a real surprise, but obviously an awesome surprise.

"It will be amazing - 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."

Rowe was forced to miss the WRU's Talent Identifi-cation programme in September because of work commitments - but rang Wales coach Rhys Edwards to arrange her own personal trial.

She said: "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."

"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."

She switched to rugby in 2010, joining Harlequins after the back injury which meant she had to give up rowing.

During her career on the water she won silver as part of the GB women's four at the Lucerne World Cup Regatta and bronze in the women's eight at the European Rowing Championships, both in 2007. She also represented Wales in the Commonwealth Rowing Championships in 2006, winning silver.

Rowe added: "I had a lot of friends who were play-ing 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. "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?'" And she said moving to London Welsh was a natural step for her, adding: "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."


Rebecca Rowe of Wales prepares for a tackle by Emma Croker of England in the |Women's Six Nations rugby opener
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 9, 2015
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