Sunday’s opening Women’s Six Nations clash against Italy will mark two years to the day since Bethan Lewis made her Wales debut. She started against Scotland at Colwyn Bay on February 2 2018 and hasn’t looked back since, starting every Test except the recent autumn game against Spain in Madrid.
The competitive flanker who was born and bred in Abergwili, Carmarthen, attending Ysgol Nantgaredig and Ysgol Bro Myrddin and playing for Carmarthen Quins from the age of six, was the ultimate all-rounder growing up. She played competitive tennis and competed at athletics amongst other sports, along with representing Great Britain at the world junior surf championships.
However, rugby was a constant and when it came to choosing, it wasn’t a hard decision to make, the sport’s team and family ethos an overriding factor.
“My parents encouraged me to try lots of sports and I enjoyed them all, especially surfing but rugby was always a passion throughout it all. I played in Carmarthen Quins mixed teams and then the girls’ set-up at the club as well as representing the school.
“Carmarthen Quins U15s was run first by the husband and wife team of Gareth and Helen Rees whose twin daughters Catrin and Cerys were a few years older. I really looked up to them and they treated us all as part of the family. Later the Ridleys took over. Their sons played for the boys’ teams and daughter Amy played with us. My dad was always around too to lend a hand with coaching and support. Alisha Butchers was also in the team and I remember one time our dads were playing a game of touch rugby against us. My dad ended up falling flat on his face but we all had laugh about it and there was a real family atmosphere.
“The team ethos of rugby is very special and something we feel strongly about in the current Wales squad. If you make a mistake – miss a tackle or something’s not going quite right, there’s nothing quite like having your teammates around to pick you up. It’s much harder to get over a knock-back in an individual sport, especially as a young athlete.
“I’d been involved with Wales Sevens U18s but the aim had always been to get a full cap and that game in Colwyn Bay was certainly the highlight of my career. My family are really important to me and my whole family were there that night.”
Beth’s dad Tim is one of the team’s biggest supporters, travelling to every game home and away. The bond between father and daughter is clearly a strong one, with Beth putting her ever-presence in the team down to her father’s encouragement.
“My father always says two things – ‘play each game like it’s your last’ and ‘you’re only as good as your last game’. I try to do that. It’s such a privilege wearing the Wales shirt and you never know when that’s going to end so I want to put everything I have into each performance. It’s fantastic to now be playing with some of my best friends and I just want to perform well to repay my whole family and everyone who’s helped me get here.”
A young Wales Women squad enjoyed a promising autumn campaign including wins over Six Nations opponents Ireland and Scotland and ending with an impressive second-half against the Barbarians at Principality Stadium.
Lewis, who is in the third year of a Sports and Exercise Science degree at Hartpury University, believes the side can build on that as they move into the Six Nations and onto the 2021 Rugby World Cup, starting with Italy on Sunday.
“It’s going to be an exciting game. Italy finished second last season, beating a very strong France side on the way. We were both frustrated with our 3-3 draw last year but I believe we can build on the momentum we created at the end of last season and throughout the autumn. If we keep improving our performance, we can produce the result too.”
Go to wru.wales/waleswomen for tickets to support Wales Women this Six Nations