Six Nations: Triple-international Hannah Bluck relishing chance

Hannah Bluck
Bluck made her international rugby debut at Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay on 2 February

Hannah Bluck would appear to be one of those sporting gems who can turn their hand (or foot) to any discipline and compete at the highest level.

The 20-year-old from Porthcawl has represented Wales in football and basketball and now rugby.

Despite only picking up the oval ball a year ago, she was one of 10 uncapped players to be named in the Wales Women squad for the 2018 Six Nations.

She went on to make a dream debut, scoring in Wales' win over Scotland.

Bluck grew up with four brothers and started kicking a football from a young age.

She has a collection of international football caps at under-16, under-17 and under-19 age levels, as well as in basketball.

Hannah Bluck
Bluck played centre-back at football and captained Wales at age group level

But a freak injury in 2013 threatened to end her entire sporting career, when she dislocated her ankle and fractured her fibula.

"I was training, went to turn quickly and it just snapped," she said.

The accident led to the diagnosis of avascular necrosis in her tibia, a rare condition which causes a lack of blood supply to the bone.

"I was shocked at the time... I thought I could have lost my foot," said the 20-year-old.

"I was constantly training before it happened and didn't know how to rest. My mum told me to take each day as it comes, and that's what I did."

After surgery and taking up weight training, she returned to football two years later, but lost interest and enjoyment in the game after moving teams.

Her first taste of rugby came at the University of South Wales, where she is studying for a degree in strength and conditioning. She was asked to help train the women's rugby team and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I like the physical side of the game," she said. "Especially making tackles."

Hannah Bluck
Bluck was called up to train with Wales after impressive performances with club Ynysybwl and region Cardiff Blues Ladies

Cardiff Blues Ladies would soon come calling, and Bluck's impressive displays at regional level attracted attention from Wales head coach Rowland Phillips, who invited her to attend a talent identification session.

A day later he invited her to train with Wales, but she had to turn it down as she had already committed to coaching football in America.

But Phillips, who is building a squad for the 2021 World Cup, was back in touch on her return and she began to train with Wales.

"There was a lot to learn in such a short space of time," she said, but "the atmosphere is very good and focused".

Bluck was named in the starting line-up in the Six Nations opener against Scotland and made the dream debut on the wing, touching down in the first half of their 18-17 win.

"No words can really sum up the emotion of it," she said. "I was over the moon."

Hannah Bluck
Bluck said she now prefers rugby to football, with tackling being her favourite part of the game

But a 52-0 thumping from England the following week brought her and her team-mates back down to earth.

"We came up against one of the best teams who train day in, day out. They're a different class," she said.

"It was challenging but we have taken a lot of positives as well as negatives from the game."

Bluck is now looking ahead to Ireland, having finished on the losing side in a friendly at Ystrad Mynach before the Six Nations.

"I'll just stay focused and familiarise myself with what I need to do in the game if I get selected."

Hannah Bluck
Bluck tweeted "You win some and you learn some" after the England loss
Hannah Bluck
Bluck stood out in Wales' uncapped friendly against Ireland ahead of the Six Nations

In Wales' new assistant coach, ex-Wales international wing Gareth Wyatt, Bluck has found a mentor who knows what it takes to play out wide at the highest level.

"Gareth's great... I've picked up many things from him," she said.

"I'm new to the game and I like honesty. When I do something wrong I get frustrated because I look for perfection."

Wyatt said: "Hannah brings physicality but also has a good skill set and is working hard to improve her game understanding.

"She is one of many new young faces who have huge potential in the game."

Bluck said it made her "incredibly proud" to have represented Wales in three different sports.

"It's a great achievement and not something I expected at all, the pitch and gym are like my second home."

Long term, Bluck says she hopes to "go as far in rugby as I possibly can", complete her degree and potentially go down the coaching route.

But she added: "I'm keeping my options open."

Wales Women
Hannah Bluck (left) lines up with her Wales Women team mates in Colwyn Bay

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