Rachel Taylor has made history by becoming the first female coach of a Welsh rugby club playing in the national league.
The former Wales captain has crossed the gender divide to take charge of a men’s team at Colwyn Bay RFC – the club’s first female appointment in their 95-year history.
Taylor, who won 67 caps and also captained the Barbarians women’s team against the Army last autumn, is a full-time rugby coordinator for the Welsh Rugby Union.
She is returning to her home club, where she took up rugby as an eight-year-old, and will become part of six-women group who run the club through roles as team manager/fixture secretary, membership secretary, secretary, treasurer and marketing manager.
“I wanted to take my coaching up another level this season,” said Taylor.
“I’m starting my Level 3 and the obvious choice would probably have been to simply coach RGC Women or a female side, but having spoken to male colleagues who said they’d learned a lot from coaching women, I’m hoping I’ll learn a lot from men’s rugby which is a completely different game and will give me a whole new perspective on many areas of my coaching and player management.
“I’m also really looking forward to the challenge of having ownership of a team from start to finish, which is something I haven’t done before.
“I’m thrilled to be embarking on this where I started my rugby career – at Colwyn Bay, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by a really good group of coaches in Dan Lycett, Arthur Astbury and fitness coach Mark Lewin who has worked with RGC men in the past.
“The club has just been relegated back to Division Two after one season in Division One but there’s a good balance of youth coming through and hopefully we’ll encourage some more experienced players back to the club. We’re looking forward to a good pre-season so that we can enjoy the season on and off the field.
“It’s good to know there are a lot of women involved in the club already – as in clubs around Wales. There are also a lot of quality female coaches coming through so I’d say why not coach men’s sides? I’ve seen the likes of my former teammates Catrina Nicholas and Jenny Davies move up the coaching ladder and that has given me confidence to give it a go.
“With interest and participation in women and girls’ rugby in Wales on the rise through increased opportunities at girls’ clusters, school-club hub programmes and a new, more inclusive approach to the game throughout Wales, more women are getting involved in coaching, which is great to see. Hopefully, they will get confidence from seeing women progress as coaches and go for it too.
Colwyn Bay recently awarded Taylor life membership in honour of her international achievements within the game.
Taylor has hung up her club and regional playing boots and will also coach RGC Women this season alongside her WRU North Wales regional colleagues Dave and Marc Roberts.
WRU head of rugby performance Geraint John said, “It is great to see a player of Rachel’s calibre and excellence now going into coaching.
“Her knowledge, enthusiasm, attitude and expertise will help her and I am sure she will be a success not only with Colwyn Bay but in coaching as a whole. We wish her every success in her new venture and we also hope it also encourages many people into coaching and supporting teams after playing.”
WRU chairman Gareth Davies added, “Congratulations to Rachel Taylor who has been a fabulous ambassador for Wales and women in rugby throughout her playing career and as a WRU employee.
“We wish her all the best in this new role. Also congratulations to Colwyn Bay RFC for promoting women throughout their committee on and off the field. Women have always carried out vital roles in Welsh rugby but it is encouraging to see more equality in some key positions at all levels of rugby administration going forward.”