Rafiuke Taylor is a Wales Rugby League Local Hero

9th April 2020, 09:37

Rafiuke Taylor is proof it's never too late to try something new.

The Barry fire-fighter won her first Wales rugby union cap aged 36 when most players are considering hanging up their boots.

Five years on she is preparing to captain Wales women's first-ever rugby league side.

And should she win a cap against England next month, she'll become Wales' first female dual-code international, following in the footsteps of male players like Jonathan Davies, Scott Quinnell and Scott Gibbs to name but a few.

Perhaps what's most impressive is the flying winger stumbled on rugby by accident.

"I was a late starter, I didn't even realise female rugby existed until I was about 34 or 35," she told BBC Sport Wales.

"It was kind of dropped on me. I was supposed to be going on a date and he was like 'can we go a little bit early so I can watch my friend play rugby?' and I was like 'really?'"

But within minutes Taylor was enthralled and joined Barry ladies at training the following day.

"I'm very competitive so even when my fitness levels weren't the best, I was like 'I'm not going to lose this' and then I'd go die in a corner somewhere," she said.

Taylor began her career with Barry before joining Sea View and Pontyclun Falcons

A couple of years later her electric pace, which would challenge GB Olympic sevens wing Jazz Joyce on her day, caught the eye of Cardiff Blues selectors, but it wasn't just the region who were impressed.

"I hadn't even been picked for the Blues. I was sat in the house waiting for the team to be released and I had a phone call from Sophie Bennett (Wales team manager at the time) saying they'd like me to come training.

"So after I finished running around the house saying 'yay go me', I came back and sat there biting my nails waiting for the Blues."

Taylor won five caps playing in the 2013 Six Nations and 2014 Rugby World Cup.

She currently plays for Pontyclun Falcons in the Welsh Premiership but heard of Wales rugby league trials over the summer. She didn't give it much thought but was persuaded to go down to help boost numbers.

"We played a game and I just had the best time. League suits me better, it's very quick, lots of running rugby and less stoppages," she said.

Not only did Taylor make the 24-strong squad for their first ever international matches, she has been chosen to captain the side.

"It's very overwhelming to be the first captain. It's been a bit of a whirlwind... I'm honoured beyond belief. I'm also excited to hopefully be the first Wales dual code rugby international since Gareth Thomas."

"I'm not much for words, I'll be leading from the front. My team talk will pretty much be 'let's go smash it' and then I'll be running around like a nutter."