Wales taken on France on Sunday in round three of the Women’s Six Nations. Its means the end of another long week – and plenty of miles travelled – for prop Gwenllian Pyrs who tells Graham Thomas about five good reasons why she has to get back home after training.
Gwenllian Pyrs has admitted it will be a difficult day if she is ever asked to choose between rugby and her dogs.
The Wales prop – who is poised to win her 14th cap when she lines up against France on Sunday in a match that is live on S4C – is one of the bright new stars of the women’s game.
But the 22-year-old would have some serious thinking to do if the demands of the sport led Wales to follow rivals England down the road of full-time professionalism.
At present, Pyrs makes a six-hour commute from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Cardiff three times a week in order to train and play for the national team.
Not only is her career as a rugby hub officer with the Welsh Rugby Union based in the north of the country, but so are her five dogs – two of which she competes with in sheepdog trials from April through to October.
MENYWOD CYMRU v MENYWOD IWERDDON
Dydd Sul | Sunday
— S4C (@S4C) March 14, 2019
All five animals are working dogs on her father’s farm near Betws-y-Coed and she confesses: “I’d find it hard to be away from my dogs.
“They’re a big part of my life. Unless I got a farm down here in the south, then I don’t think it’s going to be possible not to have to do the long journeys.
“The trialling runs throughout the summer – from April until October – so it generally works out quite well with the rugby. But I’ve got one main bitch now and I have to decide whether I can trial with her.
“You need to spend a lot of time with the dogs. You can’t just take them out once a week and expect them to perform. It’s like rugby players – the dogs have to be trained regularly to get them up to the right standard.
Llongyfarchiadau i Ferched Cymru
Buddugoliaeth yn Iwerddon
— Merched RGC (@MerchedRGC) November 10, 2019
“Rugby is a short career and you have to take the opportunities when you can. So, if it meant full-time professionalism, I would like to think I’d give it a go.
“My dad would have to look after the dogs for me and then I could go back to that after rugby. I’d make it work.”
For the time being, though, two thirds of Wales’ front row get in a car three times a week and drive from north to south Wales. Hooker Molly Kelly is Pyrs’s regular commuting partner and the pair travel down to Cardiff two afternoons a week, plus weekends, throughout the weeks of the Six Nations and autumn internationals.
Pyrs says that while there are similarities between sheepdog trialling and international rugby in terms of commitment, there are differences, too.
“The big difference is that when I’m competing in the trials, it’s only me and my dog. It’s all on you.
“In the rugby, you have team-mates who can pick you up when things aren’t going well.”
And things haven’t been going entirely to plan for Wales so far in this year’s tournament. They lost their opening game, 19-15, at home to Italy and were then blown away by an Irish gale in Dublin – losing 31-12.
To add insult to injury, that was a match which made headlines when the Welsh players found cold showers awaited them in the dressing room at Donnybrook.
Not that it bothered Pyrs, too much. The Scarlets loose-head is more concerned with putting right the problems Wales suffered and gaining their first victory over a France side that hammered Italy 45-10 in their last game.
#InternationalWomensDay amazing our daughter has strong female icons to look up to, boots signed by WRU Women legends at training camp last week, thanks for being inspirations ❤ @9Jessk9 @SionedHarries and Gwenllian Pyrs pic.twitter.com/2H2H4VUuDV
— Emma (@miss_emma21) March 8, 2019
“The shower problem was unexpected but I don’t think it was their fault and they apologised. They did bring some heaters in.
“Now, it’s all about France. I played against them two years ago in Colwyn Bay and they’re also a very physical team, like Ireland. We will need to match that.
“They are fast and they always have a heavy pack. But we know what we’re doing. Size doesn’t matter. If they are bigger than us, it’s easier to get under them and move them around.
“A good scrum is vital. We need a solid platform so that our backs get can get some good ball.”
A victory at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday would make the long car journey home a little more bearable.
Sunday Feb 23, at 11.45 am on S4C – Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol – Menywod: Cymru v Ffrainc. English commentary available. Kick off 12.00.