South Wales Echo
Manon goes back to her roots as Wales Women honour clubs
MANON Johnes proudly donned the jersey of her first club, Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd (CRICC), when she joined with her Wales Women team mates in a special photograph to identify where they had all launched their rugby careers.
Going back to their rugby roots gave the Welsh players the chance to show their gratitude to the clubs, coaches and volunteers who helped to set them on the road to the top ahead of the biggest game of the game against England at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday.
The 18-year-old Johnes took her first rugby steps at CRICC and has followed in some illustrious stud marks ever since.
The Cardiff-based club, which was formed in 1990 to provide rugby to Welsh speakers, has already played a part in the development of Jamie Roberts and Rhys Patchell.
Johnes followed a similar route and then followed Roberts and Patchell to Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf. She won’t be the only one at school this week dreaming of getting one over the auld enemy as one of her fellow sixthformers is the Wales Under-20 lock Teddy Williams.
With two Glantaf old boys, Patchell and Seb Davies, in the senior Wales men’s squad, the Cardiff school is more than doing it’s bit for the nation this season.
But while there is the prospect of a first home Six Nations game against England on her home ground to look forward to this weekend, Johnes also has plenty of work to get on with at school.
With a place at Oxford University to study geography and volcanology to aim at this year, playing against England in the Six Nations is probably not the biggest thing on her mind.
The Cardiff Blues flanker made her international debut at the age of 17 earlier in the season when she came on as a replacement against South Africa. She then made her first start a week later against Hong Kong.
Her Six Nations debut came in a tough defeat against reigning champions France in Montpellier and that was followed up a week later with an incredible 3-3 draw in Italy. Now comes the biggest rugby test of her fledgling career.
“This is my first year playing senior rugby and the whole experience has been amazing. I just keep learning with every game and being a part of the Six Nations squad has been a dream that I never thought would come so early in my career,” said Johnes.
“It was great that our autumn campaign had full internationals, so pulling the jersey on for the first time and getting my first cap was amazing.
“I started playing at my local club after watching rugby games with my dad. I always wanted to get involved.
“When I turned 13, I moved to a girls’ club, Cardiff Quins Girls. Jamie Roberts and Rhys Patchell used to play for the boys’ club there, so it had a rich Welsh rugby pedigree.”
Wales have only beaten England once before and will be up against it once again on Sunday as they face a team that is packed full of professional and semi-professional players. They have already beaten Ireland and France and will travel as big favourites.
But Wales are planning to build on their two gritty away performances to give the favourites a tough time. They are looking for a big crowd to roar them on and the Johnes’ Glantaf class mates will be there in force to give her their full support.
■ Wales Women v England Women is on Sunday, February 24, at Cardiff Arms Park (kick-off 12.30pm)
■ Tickets avaialble online at www. wru.wales and www.cardiffblues. co.uk