Wales rugby player ended her Test career because she just couldn’t give any more

It is vital to recollect a smile and frequent laughs intertwine as Alecs Donovan addresses the explanations behind one of many greatest selections of her life.

Whereas the Wales centre, 30, introduced her retirement from worldwide rugby in March – on the eve of the Six Nations – she doesn’t remorse her experiences or resolution, and already appears to be like again at it with cherished reminiscences.

Associates presumed Swansea-born Alecs, capped seven occasions in rugby union throughout three years, was pregnant; others assumed she has main plans after turning 30.

Alecs believes it was simply her time to go. It was nothing to do with rugby, her teammates or coaches.

However the yoga teacher and businesswoman admits she was going to coaching drained and wasn’t having fun with it in the identical manner, whereas the steadiness of anticipated dedication ranges and what she felt she may give was tipping for the primary time.

“So many individuals had been like ‘you’re positively pregnant’,” she tells WalesOnline. “I used to be like ‘I want I used to be, simply so I may say that is why I’ve retired’. Nobody will query you.

“It sounds prefer it was a extremely rash resolution, but it surely’s been coming for months.

“I believe the dedication ranges, they in all probability desire a step up once more of what I really feel I can provide and even need to give.

“While you’re debating it and even whenever you’re driving to coaching questioning your dedication, questioning is that this what you really need, I believe you’ve bought one foot out the door already.

“I’m actually pleased with what I’ve carried out, I’ve actually loved my time, I’ve cherished enjoying for Wales and that received’t change.

“I need to end on that feeling. I don’t need to end on a sense the place I’m dreading going coaching, I’m discovering this actually exhausting with work and all of that. I believe I used to be simply carried out with how a lot dedication I needed to offer.

“That’s why I believe I discover it unhappy, as a result of it’s not only one cause. It’s not something I remorse, however now I really feel like I don’t need to do this anymore.”


Alecs’ clarification of her retirement is testomony to the largely unrecognised dedication ranges Wales Ladies give to symbolize their nation. Lots of them – like Alecs – work full-time to complement their want to play rugby, which implies their coaching time is robotically restricted.

Talking forward of the Six Nations, Alecs explains: “I nonetheless love rugby but it surely’s simply actually exhausting – folks don’t see the 99% of it and the way exhausting work it’s.

“We hand over lots. Even not beginning a household now, you could say ‘I’ll begin after the subsequent marketing campaign’ and issues. It’s sort of unbelievable what we give.”

A restricted pool of ex-players and associates will know precisely how Alecs – who needed to go straight to work after her first Wales cap – felt.

“From the surface, everybody’s like ‘what did you do?’ I even had a few messages being like ‘how may you stroll away from one thing that’s somebody’s dream, enjoying for Wales’ and all of this.

“Then once I communicate to the ladies within the squad, with my associates or ex-internationals, they didn’t even must ask me the explanation why. They simply know. Except you are within the squad you don’t really realise how a lot dedication it takes and what you even have to surrender to play.

With new Wales coach Warren Abrahams being appointed in November forward of his first match in cost, it is solely proper {that a} teaching set-up expects 100% dedication. However whereas the squad are nonetheless newbie and must work, the phrase ‘there’s solely 24 hours in a day’ could not be extra pertinent.

“I discover it actually exhausting for the coaches.

“We strive and quit as a lot time as we are able to to coach, however then reasonably than your days off being your restoration, evaluation and having a relaxation, we in all probability work twice as exhausting to slot in our full-time jobs round all the pieces.

“We would like to have the ability to compete to that stage, so we need to hand over time, we need to spend hours within the gymnasium after which prepare after which do evaluation and do conferences and all of that, however you then’ve bought a life-time alongside it that should nearly finance that as properly.

“We now have to coach till 9/10pm typically, or we get dwelling at 10pm some nights as a result of we strive and quit as a lot time as we are able to and attempt to slot in work.

“From the surface, folks suppose you go coaching and also you play on the weekend – yeah, alongside a full-time job!”


Professionalising the workforce and introducing contracts has lengthy been mooted, with ex-WRU CEO Martyn Phillips declaring final summer season that he needed contracts in place earlier than this 12 months’s scheduled World Cup. Since then, Covid has wreaked havoc on world rugby funds and the New Zealand World Cup has been postponed to 2022.

Captain Siwan Lillicrap mentioned a couple of weeks in the past: “We’re trusting the WRU will keep true to their phrase and this may come to life – shortly, we hope, so we are able to really prep for the World Cup subsequent 12 months.”

Heavy defeats within the first two Ladies’s Six Nations matches have provoked criticism of the squad, but in addition an consciousness of their limitations in having the ability to put together. Contracts could possibly be interpreted as a hen and egg scenario: which comes first? Contracts or improved performances?

Would they’ve swayed Alecs into a unique resolution?

“I’m going to talk truthfully, it relies upon what these contracts appear like as properly. We do not know whether or not that’s going to offer £10,000 a 12 months, £20,000 a 12 months, £30,000 a 12 months.

“After which there’s folks at my sort of age – I’ve simply turned 30 – that you simply’ve constructed up a profession. Would I depart that profession to have a perhaps £15,000 a 12 months contract for a few years? I personally wouldn’t however I do know there’s so many different ladies which have held off on careers and issues like that, ready for these contracts to come back.

“There’s talks of contracting 5 or 10 folks, however is that actually going to vary the squad? I personally suppose semi-professional contracts would work as a result of you may contract much more gamers, you don’t count on as a lot from them.

“I do suppose it’s one thing that should occur as quickly as they’ll as a result of I believe there’s going to be perhaps extra of a drop-off like me, or the ladies who’re actually fatigued, who hand over all the pieces after which suppose ‘I can’t do that anymore’. It must occur quickly only for even your dedication, time and power and energy to be rewarded even barely.”

Are Wales Ladies gamers fatigued, then? Alecs thinks so.

“They should be fatigued as a result of they journey to Welsh [training] however they play membership alongside the Welsh commitments they’ve, then they prepare, they work full-time. However they do not query their dedication.

“Together with your employer, they count on a sure stage in work as properly in the event that they’re paying you a full-time wage.

“Yeah, they should be fatigued, as a lot as they don’t complain. I’m in all probability the one which complains essentially the most within the squad! They in all probability wouldn’t outwardly say it as properly.”

Two rounds of Ladies’s Six Nations motion thus far have confirmed the match is much from aggressive prime to backside – England are the one skilled workforce and semi-professional France are one other drive to be reckoned with.

“We’d like to be in the identical place as England, we’d love that, there’s no denying that”, Alecs says.

“It’s straightforward to be ‘yeah, it’s actually unfair’ and all this, however as a result of we’re not in that place we don’t actually give attention to that a part of it.

“I believe from the surface it’s nearly spoken about far more than from the within. It’s not like we’re selecting to not be skilled after which enjoying in opposition to them, it’s simply we haven’t bought that alternative in the intervening time.

“All you consider is that is the chance we’ve bought now, and we’re going to play as exhausting as we ever have and we consider in ourselves as properly. As a lot as from the surface it’s not very best and also you’re not in all probability given the identical likelihood, from being within the squad they don’t even query it.”


In her retirement assertion, Alecs revealed that she had each fallen in love with and had her coronary heart damaged by rugby.

When Wales worldwide Elli Norkett was killed after a automotive crash in unhealthy climate in February 2017, her demise despatched shockwaves all through Welsh rugby – and closely affected shut good friend Alecs.

“Because of this I discovered the choice so exhausting, as a result of I felt in a manner like I used to be letting her down. I do know she would need me to do no matter I need to do, not saying something unhealthy about El in any respect. It was extra like I felt like I used to be enjoying for her.

“The best way to explain her, she was actually cheeky. She’s enjoyable, she’s a bit like daylight when she walks in, and I don’t know whether or not that’s as a result of she was cheeky or she was smiley, she’s blonde. She simply lights up the room.

“A type of those that I may spend all day with, simply make me snigger, however at all times – clearly took rugby significantly – however at all times remembered why she was there, simply did it for the enjoyment.

“It’s at all times that steadiness of, I’m dwelling my dream however with out one among my finest associates. She was one among my greatest drivers and doubtless my foremost driver within the sport – as a lot as whenever you get this superb feeling, your coronary heart breaks on the identical time.”


Social media abuse in sport, notably girls’s sport, is sadly turning into extra frequent, however gamers dealing with frequent challenges makes them come collectively, in Alecs’ view.

“The a part of rugby I like, I actually refer it again to life, whenever you’re down on the ground and your good friend has to come back and provide help to, you’re stronger collectively, that’s the girls’s sport.

“I believe it’s as a result of we get numerous stick perhaps or we don’t get as inspired as the lads’s or as a lot help, you sort of have to come back collectively as a workforce as a result of now we have sufficient in opposition to us anyway.

As for social media abuse, lockdown could have amplified the issue with extra followers at dwelling as an alternative of in stadiums but it surely’s at all times been obvious.

“We do get numerous stick for it. You get it on a regular basis, ‘it’s actually unattractive that you simply play rugby’. What even is that remark?! It’s simply weird, actually.

“It’s not even, ‘why do you not care?’ The sort of factor that we battle with perhaps extra, is folks need to inform you they don’t help you. That’s only a bizarre factor for us, as a result of we don’t actually perceive why they’d even really feel the necessity to say it.

“We’re attempting to encourage ladies to come back into sport, we’re attempting to encourage and inspire the subsequent technology, and whenever you’ve bought folks like that commenting negatively on it, then they’re simply not serving to the trigger.

“Let’s simply filter out the those that don’t care, it’s advantageous in the event you don’t care. We have to need the those that do care to come back on board, assist us inspire the subsequent technology.”


A netball common who ruptured her Achilles, Alecs solely actually took up rugby aged round 25, ultimately following in her Wales worldwide father Alun’s footsteps. Welsh caps run in her mom’s facet of the household, too, together with her mum being a Wales hockey participant.

After her first membership dropped the ladies’s workforce, it was time to name in a favour from dad Alun, who was Swansea RFC’s secretary.

“I used to be like, ‘aw Dad, will you make us a girls’s workforce?’ Swansea took us on board and that’s the workforce all of us moved over to then, they handled us so properly.

“The ladies had been like ‘go on, ask your dad’, I mentioned ‘it’s not like asking him for a sleepover!’ I used to be saying to the ladies ‘they only lose cash by having us there so now we have to be, now we have to grasp this can be a huge favour they’re doing’. They’ve been nice with us.”

A couple of years later, and Alecs has bridged yoga with rugby – providing it to athletes to help their restoration and scale back accidents. She is a daily at Bristol Bears, having additionally labored with the Ospreys and people throughout Wales.

When the topic of being Bristol Bears’ finest signing comes up, Alecs is fast to level out that was in all probability earlier than Semi Radradra’s arrival.

“It was the 12 months earlier than he got here in!” she laughs.

“The tradition they’ve bought there, no marvel they’re at the usual they’re in the intervening time. They’re only a totally different stage.

“They’re so welcoming, I keep in mind my first session there, all of them supplied to hold my mats again to my automotive and even little issues like that, they wouldn’t even discover that they did it, however from manners to how good they’re to you and the way welcoming they’re.

“Even once I go in now, Pat Lam will make sure that he comes right down to say hello or depart his gymnasium session to come back and communicate to me. It’s little issues like that, they’re so good.”

Being associates with world rugby stars like George North and Sam Warburton can have its perks, too.

“I’ve been actually fortunate to work with among the finest gamers on this planet, rugby-wise. In a manner, as a result of a few of my associates performed to a extremely excessive stage, I don’t actually get intimidated by it and I believe that’s in all probability one of many issues they like as properly. In any other case it’s only a bit awkward!”


Work-wise, Alecs – who runs her personal yoga firm Yogability – is establishing a coaching course to get instructors alongside her, whereas additionally launching yoga retreats, however there isn’t any grand masterplan.

“Truthfully I have not bought a large plan. I really feel like I ought to make one simply so it’s extra comprehensible!”

And whereas carrying the pink of Wales shall be a factor of the previous now, Alecs would not really feel like she’s leaving rugby in any respect.

A giant advocate of girls’s rugby, she is going to stay concerned and hopes to play extra Sevens and even be a part of an English membership in England’s prime league, Premier 15s.

“I’m nonetheless going to play. However the way in which I really feel in the intervening time, I believe my worldwide profession is finished – however you by no means know!

“I really feel like I’ve lived my precise dream. That is my dream come true and I do really feel like I’ve lived it so I don’t know the way you sum that up.

“It’s given me reminiscences that may final a lifetime and I really feel actually fortunate to be on this place, and I am strolling away now with the perfect reminiscences I’ve made.

“I do not take that with no consideration, I understand how fortunate I’m.”

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