This week Bill Carne met up with talented young rugby player Holly Couzens and discovered that she has also competed at a whole range of other sports, including canoe slalom, bodybuilding, cycling, triathlons, football and cricket . . .

Holly Couzens loves sport and has taken part in a number of different activities – but is currently attracting attention as a very good outside half with Haverfordwest Ladies RFC.

“I started playing sport from a young age which meant lots of my parents' time was taken up in shipping me around,” she told us. “They have always encouraged me in whatever I've tried, supporting me through school and university - and mum Andrea still washes my dirty rugby kit every week! 

“She has also been the most brilliant taxi driver for me along with dad Andrew and brother James”.

She started playing rugby for Narberth under 7s, which definitely toughened her up as she more or less continued from playing through school, to clubs and then in university.

“I played for Narberth in the boys’ team until I was 12 and then for the Whitland girls’ team, playing mainly on the wing or in the centre.”

But Holly also started playing football and cricket in school, starting out with the Kilgetty Girls and with Whitland Girls’ cricket team coached by Byron McNeil, and had a 50 on tour at Bath.

“I enjoyed them because my friends used to play but I wouldn’t list either as my favourite,” admitted Holly with a chuckle!

Bodybuilding was another demanding sport in terms of diet and training, starting out again in university and devising her own programmes –after spending some time in the gym and improving her powerlifting techniques of squat and deadlifting to respective totals of 70kgs and 95kgs.

“I also tried my hand at weightlifting techniques of clean & jerk and snatch but found them harder to develop. All my time in the gym finally saw me take part in a bodybuilding competition and I was pleased with my third place to qualify for the British Championships in London.

“I was unable to go because they clashed with my studies but I still enjoy working out at ‘Project Fitness’ in Tenby, run by former rugby player Jason Ronowitz, and I am competing in a ‘Crossfit’ event in Swansea soon!”

Cycling and triathlons followed as other challenging sports she enjoyed to round off a comprehensive range.  But not content with that little lot, she also took up canoe slalom to a high level as she travelled all around the country gaining experience that has helped her throughout her sporting life.

She started out when Robert Newsome, the headmaster at Ysgol Dyffryn Taf , started up a canoeing club on the river at Llandysul and Holly took to the sport straight away as she was coached at Llandysul and then later with the National Development Squad at the White Water Centre in Cardiff Bay.

“We also used to travel to Bala and I loved the thrills and spills of negotiating the fast water and huge obstacles put in your way – and was soon moving up the divisions as I got to understand the way to use the power of the water to my advantage.

“But one day I got caught under water and broke my nose, but I got straight back in and finished the run”.

“I was never quite the same afterwards though,” admitted Holly, “but who knows, I might go back to it some day!”

Holly would say that a key sporting mentor for her was her PE teacher Jude Roberts at Ysgol Dyffryn Taf, who dedicated lots of her time in giving advice and support in taking part in a range of activities, including another string to her sporting bow in hockey, where she played up front for Ysgol Dyffryn Taf, county and for Tenby Ladies alongside Jude Roberts.

Ask her about her sporting star at a national level and it comes as no surprise that Jessica Ennis-Hill would be her choice as an 'inspirational athlete', who like Holly loves to compete.

On the rugby front one of the undoubted highlights has to be playing rugby for Leicester University at Welford Road Stadium, the home of the top English club against De Montfort University.

"I never thought I would play rugby at such a place so it was a great experience for myself and the team as we played against very strong opposition. I was selected as scrum half, with my parents having made the long trip up to cheer me on as we won narrowly on a cold, floodlit, December night."

That occurred during Holly's second year at university and she opted out from what was a huge commitment to training in her final year because she was fully committed to obtaining a good grade in her BSc (Hons) Degree - and it paid off because she was awarded a first class degree as reward!

Holly joined Haverfordwest Ladies from Whitland towards the end of 2017 after starting out as a physio in the National Health Service and working alongside Blues Ladies' players Awen Prysor and Hayley McCarney - and decided to try her luck at their Pembroke Road Ground.

"I was made very welcome by the players from the outset and since then the coaches Gareth Charles and Chris Beggan have been a massive support and helped me develop as a player into a new position, with all the work and understanding that entails.

"I had played scrum half, centre and wing before but they set me the challenge of playing at outside half and I've really enjoyed the chance to direct operations and also take on the kicking duties after some good advice from Joanne Price.

"I'm lucky that I've also got experienced players around me, with Steph Harris, Awen Prysor, and Nina Colville always ready to give me a hand - and in our last game I managed to land five out of six conversions”.

“I have also been made very welcome by all the other girls in the squad and the camaraderie is evident to all as we train hard together and really enjoy each other's company.”

As well as playing for Haverfordwest Ladies she has recently joined the Scarlets Ladies' squad, which is another step up in class for this eager miss who is eager to keep developing her rugby skills.

Talking to Holly Couzens for a short while and it is easy to see how sport plays a role in her life –we wish this pleasant and unassuming young miss many more years of participation in whatever she chooses to compete in.