Rachel Taylor stands between two phases in women’s sport as a shining example of leadership. Sitting next to Sam Warburton (Welsh mens Rugby captain) chatting
together at the 6Nations launch or getting messages from the mens national team is worlds away from where things were for Rachel and the Welsh women’s
squad in the past. By her own admission 5/6 years ago there was a lot less focus on women’s sport or interest from fans in Wales, especially of the
national sport, Rugby but this has all changed. As Rachel explained “we have never had the level of support we did last year, it was amazing. Things
have definitely changed, media and interest in Wales is getting much better”.
With almost 60 caps to her name as I write this, Rachel is leading the national team into her 4th 6Nations campaign as captain and 5th as a player. The changes she has seen and been a part of over the last few years couldn’t have been dreamed of 15 years ago when I first got involved
with women’s sport. The transition has been a challenge to many as they try to find their feet, balance work, playing for their country and also their
age as new players come through the ranks. Rachel at each stage has worked her way through it personally and as a player to get to where she is today
as a respected international captain.
Very few athletes I have spoken with over the years have been able to successfully span two era’s and even fewer have done it in as relaxed a way as Rachel
has. As I listen to her talking about where she has come from and where she has gotten to, what is striking is that she is in a better place and is
just getting better. This is a captain that is still on an upward curve of growth and development at a time when many have retired or are handing over
the baton to the next generation having “learnt all they can and done all they can”. By her own admission her first cap as well as her first as captain
“went in the blink of an eye” but she has grown into the role as player and captain and still wants to learn and believes she is. “Every time we play
it means a little more and I learn a little more” Rachel says of her role as captain.
We discussed the array of new players coming through and she is excited and fully supportive even though it could mean the end of her playing career “its
doing the team the world of good having new players coming through” Rachel says of the new blood coming through from 7’s as well as talent ID programs.
She wants the best for the team and for Wales and in doing so she is that bridge between players that had very little in the past, through to the exciting
new world that is opening for women’s sport. She is not just wise and experienced but she plays well and leads from the front. What more could you
want in a captain and what better a role model could you want as a new player.
For Rachel its about seeing the bigger picture on and off the field and appreciating what she has “its really special pulling on that shirt” she explains
of playing for and representing Wales. Even more so as she is aware that at 33 each game could be her last “you value each game more” she says. But
the interesting thing is rather than clinging on she is calm, relaxed and enjoying each game and each tournament and maybe that is the secret to why
she has endured for so long and shows no sign of stopping. Its that ability to constantly learn, enjoy the now, appreciate what she has and have humility
in spade full’s that makes her a good leader and player. Rachel Taylor is not hanging on, she is growing, improving and developing as a player, captain