Alisha Butchers believes her call-up to the Barbarians for a showcase match in the USA underlines the rapid progress being made by women’s rugby.
Along with Elinor Snowsill and Jasmine Joyce, Butchers is part of a Welsh trio set to represent the Baa Baas women’s side when they take on the USA on Friday, April 26.
The three players will be part of the two-year-old Barbarians female set-up which will include international players from nine different countries for the game at Infinity Park in Colorado.
Fly-half or full-back Snowsill, wing Joyce and forward Butchers have been selected in the first batch of 19 names announced for the Barbarians side.
Butchers, who won her 25th Wales cap in the 24-5 win over Ireland in the final round of the Six Nations, said: “I’m so excited to get the opportunity to play for the Barbarians.
“My family are over the moon and to be able to play alongside Jazz and Elinor, too, is amazing. We’re all super excited.
“I’ve grown up watching the men’s Barbarians’ matches and never even thought I would get this chance. It just shows the direction the sport is going in.
“I watched the women’s Barbarians against Munster last year online and have spoken to Tails (Rachel Taylor) and Elen Evans, along with Meg Goddard at Worcester and they’ve said what a brilliant experience it is.
“The whole Wales women team produced an outstanding performance to end the Six Nations on a high against Ireland – from that performance I think any one of the team could have been asked but luckily enough I got the call and it’s definitely something I couldn’t say no to.
“I’m very grateful to my employers, Cardiff Blues Community Foundation, for enabling me to go and be part of this.”
Butchers is a girls’ coach based at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog Schools near Pontypridd. She has noticed an increased interest in women and girls’ rugby since the Six Nations.
“Since the Ireland game, girls and boys have been coming up to me to talk about the women’s Six Nations and we’ve got more girls coming to training and keen to join the Bridgers, our local female hub outside school.”
Joyce said: “To be part of the Barbarians’ tradition is something special. I’ve experienced the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Rugby World Cup and Six Nations and now I get to be a Barbarian too which is another huge achievement.
“Four of the squad were part of New Zealand’s world cup winning squad so it’s going to be an amazing experience. Hopefully our performances as Welsh players will kick on from the Six Nations where we improved during the tournament.”
Barbarians chairman John Spencer said: “The Barbarians launched their women’s team in 2017 to bring together talented players to play with the spirit of enjoyment and entertainment for which the club is famous.
“Taking on international opponents for the first time will be a landmark moment for the team and facing a side ranked No.5 in the world in the USA Women’s Eagles will be a marvellous challenge.
“It is wonderful to see the Barbarians return to the USA for the first time since 1976, when we played club sides on both the East and West coasts.
“That summer tour saw some of rugby’s greatest names — Phil Bennett and JJ Williams among them — involved and next month’s team will include women’s players of a similar standing from around the globe.”
The Barbarians will face a USA side who are ranked fifth in the world and the match will be broadcast live on FloRugby.com.
Forwards: Gill Bourke (Stade Francais & Ireland), Amelia Buckland-Hurry (Bristol Bears), Alisha Butchers (Worcester & Wales), Dalena Dennison (Warringah & Australia), Fiao’o Fa’amausili (Auckland Marist & New Zealand), Carmen Farmer (Glendale & USA), Paula Fitzpatrick (St Mary’s & Ireland), Samantha Martinez Gion (Amsterdam & Netherlands), Linda Itunu (Ponsonby & New Zealand), Heather Kerr (Darlington MP & England), Steph Te Ohaere-Fox (Christchurch & New Zealand).
Backs: Andrea Burke (Capilanos & Canada), Julia Folk (Castaway Wdrs & Canada), Emma Jensen (Hastings & New Zealand), Jasmine Joyce (Worcester & Wales), Helen Nelson (Montpellier & Scotland), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears & Wales), Hannah Stolba (Glendale & USA), Amanda Thornborough (Westshore & Canada).