From international rugby to the front line - inspirational Cardiff Blues and Wales Women stars have been at the heart of the battle against the coronavirus outbreak.
Abbie Fleming, Megan Webb and Paige Randall, alongside Ospreys’ Angharad de Smet, are all working with the NHS, who are working tirelessly to combat the Covid-19 outbreak.
Abbie is a community and hospital physiotherapist in Bridgend, Angharad is a physiotherapist technician at Morriston Hospital while Paige and Megan are nursing students and are set to join the nursing bank as part of the effort against the pandemic. The quartet all made their Test debuts for Wales last autumn.
A number of Cardiff Blues men senior squad members have also registered as volunteers. Meanwhile, flanker Katie Jenkins, sister of club captain Ellis, is also playing her part as a clinical pharmacist at Warwick Hospital.
Back row Abbie Fleming’s main role is a community physiotherapist but and is also part of the respiratory on call rota at Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend.
She said: “My new promotion, a physiotherapist based in the community, allows me to build a close rapport with patients in their own homes to achieve goals that are most suited to themselves as individuals - working on improving their independence in an environment they feel safe in.
“However I’m also part of the respiratory on call rota at the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend, meaning that myself and my colleagues offer a seven day respiratory service for patients with respiratory function difficulties, assessing them and providing suitable treatment. The current situation involving Covid-19 can be daunting for those in healthcare but we love our jobs and do them for a reason, to help and care for people. We ensure we wear the correct PPE as guided by our senior staff and continue our roles within the hospital and community to protect ourselves and our loved ones at home too.
“The work we are doing at the moment is all part of our roles as healthcare workers and while we are also worried about spreading and affecting loved ones, patient care comes first to us.”
“During what can sometimes seem like dark times, there is a lot of uncertainty but there is a lot of emphasis in work about working together as a team and helping each other out to ensure patients are well looked after. Sometimes this involves working outside your job role to help other professions and ensure patient needs are met.”
Abbie, who captained Cardiff Blues last summer and went on to win her first cap against Spain in the autumn along with further honours against Scotland and Crawshay’s and against Barbarians at Principality Stadium, is also trying to keep on top of her fitness.
“Training alongside working can sometimes be stressful but I’ve learnt a lot about time management over the course of training within the regional and international set-up. Rugby offers me a good release from work and vice versa, it’s a good mixture. It can be tough to juggle rugby and work but I do what I can when I can and put 100% into the opportunities given to me.
“I’m lucky to have some gym equipment to use at home after work, and I live near a park which helps too but I always make sure I maintain strict social distancing. It’s so important to support my colleagues at work and protect NHS staff, patients and the general public. At the moment, I’m just doing what I can to maintain physical and mental health. What’s going on at present has given me a lot of perspective and makes me feel very grateful for the simple things in life and for what I’ve achieved so far.
“I have had a lot of opportunity recently to reflect on my year, coming back from ACL reconstruction in April 2019, captaining Cardiff Blues in the regional programme, gaining my first international cap in Madrid, playing in the Principality Stadium against the Barbarians and being promoted to a Band 6 physiotherapist. This gives me the positivity and the drive to move forward both in my professional and rugby career.”
Meanwhile wing Paige Randall and centre Megan Webb have applied to be on the nursing bank to be utilised as healthcare assistants.
Four-times capped flying wing Randall is in her third year of a nursing degree at Cardiff University and can’t wait to get stuck in: “I just want to help in any way I can. I offered to volunteer but I was told I could apply to be part of the nursing bank. I’ve done all my checks so I’m just waiting now to be utilised as a healthcare assistant.
“Nursing is what I want to do, I’ve trained for three years towards this and I’m prepared to do whatever is needed. It’s all hands on deck. My closest hospitals would be Prince Charles in Merthyr, Ystrad Mynach or Cardiff, I’m more than happy to travel.
“It’s incredible to see the support from the public towards the NHS at the moment and it shows what a worthwhile job they do.
“I’m still working on my coursework and exams and hopefully then, when I qualify I can step up into a nursing role.”
It’s been a whirlwind season for Randall who only started playing rugby with her local team Deri Diamonds a few seasons ago. She said, “It was amazing to get my first cap coming from a purely playing social rugby background just a few years ago. I’m loving the challenge and want to push myself further again next season.”
Centre Megan Webb, a first year nursing student at USW is also hoping to be utilised as part of the Covid effort.
Webb, who is first cousin to Rhys and Leicester Tigers back row Tommy Reffell added: “I’ve applied for the nursing bank as a healthcare assistant so I’m just waiting to get placed. I could be bused anywhere as I understand it, but probably in the Bridgend area.
“I’ve still got some coursework to do to complete my year and some online exams plus I’m keeping up with my fitness programmes.”
Megan made her Wales debut against Spain and followed up with autumn Tests against Ireland and Scotland along with the double-header against the Barbarians at Principality Stadium. A product of Bridgend Athletic mini and juniors, she made her Six Nations debut against France at Cardiff Arms Park in February.
“It’s quite overwhelming when you look back at the season and to play against France in the Six Nations was an eye-opener but showed me where I want to be as a rugby player. I’m using this time to improve my fitness and skillset too.”