“I was in primary school when I first realised how competitive I was. From there I carried that through everything I did. I tried out a couple of sports because I knew I always wanted to play for Wales. I played cricket and football both at county level and then I came across rugby.
“That was the sport that really stood out for me after first picking up a ball in Llantrisant Primary School. From there I went onto play for my local rugby club which was Llantrisant. I played there until I was around 12 years old and then when I got to the stage where the boys could no longer play with the girls, I had to find a new team.
“I went about a year without a team because I just couldn’t find one but then I found Pencoed. During my time there I was lucky enough to play for the Ospreys U18s. I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for the Ospreys U18s programme. The coaching there was top class and some of the stuff we did back then I still remember now like some of the key points in defence and attack. Credit to everyone involved who gave me that opportunity which I’m grateful for.”
After winning the regional U18 competition for two consecutive years with the Ospreys, Powell went on to play for Wales Sevens, representing Wales on the World Series and at the Commonwealth Games before making her 15s international debut, against Ireland in November 2019.
“I was lucky enough to play for Wales Sevens when I was 18 years old and was selected in the Commonwealth Games squad. It was a massive experience from playing in the Gold Coast tournament as well as mixing with the likes of Tom Daley in the athletes village.
“It was another dream come true and something you never really expect. Having the opportunity to compete in a competition as high as that was truly amazing.
“I gained my first cap for the 15s playing out in Ireland. That moment still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. To finally achieve something I wanted my whole life and know all the sacrifices and the hard work I put in over the years had paid off.”
Now with a new retainer contract and three Six Nations starts under her belt, the young fullback is looking forward to the future:
“It feels amazing to finally get some more time to dedicate to rugby. It’s still my dream to get a full-time contract but this is a fantastic step in the right direction.
“I’m growing in confidence with every game and feel like I’ve got a lot more to give.
“We had a lot to work on after the England game but it’s been great to get so much support on social media since the start of the Six Nations – and to make the TikTok Women’s Six Nations Fantasy team – even if it is at outside half!
“Seriously though, what means more than anything is hearing that we are inspiring the next generation and through my work at Ospreys in the Community, I see that first hand.
“We ran a girls-only rugby camp recently and one girl came up to me and asked ‘Is rugby your job?’ Yes I said. She said, ‘I want it to be my job too.
For Kayleigh, the thought of earning a contract of any kind was a big motivation in returning to fitness after 2021 was largely disrupted by injury.
“When contracts were announced, I was injured so I thought I’d missed my opportunity. It was tough but I knew I had to concentrate on getting back to fitness and performing well for my club Bristol. Luckily enough, I was invited to attend a Wales training camp in the New Year and I knew that was my chance to impress the coaches and show that I had something about me. I was confident with how I’d trained that weekend and luckily enough I then had a phone call from Ioan offering me a retainer contract.
“That change has helped massively already. I’m getting stronger and you have time to have those little conversations that make you better as a player.
“Ospreys in the Community have supported me so much throughout my rugby career and they’ve allowed me to drop some days in order to take up this opportunity.
“It’s been a tough journey over the last year or so but I’ve also enjoyed that challenge in a way, knowing how hard I had to work but also knowing the rewards could be there if I did.
“My dream is still to be a full-time rugby player but this is a fantastic step and I will keep working hard. I’m really grateful to everyone who has helped me get back on the pitch – both at Bristol and within the WRU set-up. I wouldn’t be here without them.”