Jasmine Joyce: 'Small' hurdle proves no trouble for Wales wing

Jasmine Joyce against Canada
Jasmine Joyce represents Wales in both rugby union and rugby sevens
Women's Six Nations: France v Wales
Venue: GGL Stadium, Montpellier Date: Saturday, 2 February Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, updates on BBC Sport website and app

Jasmine Joyce was once told she was too small to play rugby. Standing only 5ft 4in she would struggle to deal with the physicality of the game.

Yet before the 2019 Six Nations, and still only 23, the Wales wing has already played in an Olympics, Commonwealth Games and at a World Cup.

Joyce, from St Davids, Pembrokeshire - fittingly Britain's smallest city - burst onto the world stage in 2016 when she was the only Welsh member of Team GB women's rugby sevens squad.

She scored two tries at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics with the team narrowly missing out on a bronze medal.

Her electric pace and eye for a gap quickly drew attention from Wales' XV-a-side management, and Joyce made her debut against Scotland in the 2017 Six Nations and went on to play in the World Cup in Ireland that summer.

She was involved in another Six Nations last year before jetting off to Australia's Gold Coast to represent Wales in Commonwealth Games sevens.

"I would never have thought at my age I could have achieved all this," Joyce told BBC Sport Wales.

"When I was young I was told 'you're too small, you're this, you're that', and to have gone to the Olympics, the Commonwealths, a World Cup and get caps for Wales and hopefully many more is just an honour and I can't thank everyone enough."

Jasmine Joyce at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Joyce says she loves the sevens game just as much as the 15s game

Joyce is now looking to add to her 10 Wales caps in the 2019 Six Nations on Saturday, when Wales women kick off their campaign against last year's grand slam champions France in Montpellier.

And despite focusing on each game as it comes, she admits to dreaming of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

"Fingers crossed they look at me for Tokyo, but obviously we have to qualify first," she said.

"You almost put your life on hold for the Olympics. I want to go travelling, I want to do this, I want to do that, but even if I have a 1% chance that I could potentially go again, I'll hold on to that."

Joyce's 2016 Olympics ended in tears after losing to Canada in the bronze medal match.

"It does still hurt," she admitted, "it was once in a lifetime, we could never be in that situation again... but the main thing is that we made it there and that's what you hold on to, the memories you made and the experiences.

"Being an Olympian is just amazing to say."

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Wales score 10 tries to thrash Hong Kong

Joyce hopes Wales can build on an encouraging autumn series, when they won two from three, in the Six Nations.

"As a squad we've shot up. We put in a fantastic defensive effort against South Africa, a fantastic attacking effort against Hong Kong, and our performance against Canada was a massive improvement especially from the World Cup."

And she admits the culture in camp is "the best it's been".

"We look forward to being here, it's not like 'oh God I've got to come to training', it's like being with your best friends."

Head coach Rowland Phillips' injection of youth into the squad has also been a positive for Joyce, who is almost considered a senior player.

"We're developing so many new players now and they're pushing us for our jerseys," she said.

Jasmine Joyce and Lisa Neumann
Jasmine Joyce and Lisa Neumann both went to Ysgol Dewi Sant, while head coach Rowland Phillips is also a St Davids native

There is one new face who Joyce particularly enjoys playing alongside, wing and full-back Lisa Neumann who she grew up with in St Davids.

"It's awesome, me and Lisa were in the same school together, we literally lived next door to each other," she said.

"Lisa is fairly new to the squad and she's just fitted in so well. She's a diverse player and has had a few starts now."

Joyce and Neumann each scored two tries when Wales beat Hong Kong in November, and Joyce recalls getting plenty of home support.

"One of our teachers, Rachael Thomas brought up a school bus of 50 plus kids and my parents managed to hitch a lift," added Joyce.

"It's rewarding to be able to give back to friends and family who've put the time and effort in to take you to training and support you."

Joyce recently joined an influx of Wales players who have signed for Worcester Ladies in England's Premier 15s.

"We wanted to go to a new club with different things and different faces. A few of the England girls play for them as well," she said.

"I haven't been to training yet as I'm jam packed with the Six Nations, so to try and fit in Worcester would be impossible."

On top of working 37 hours a week at Celtic Manor, doing her own outdoor personal training and travelling down to the Vale for Wales training three times a week, Joyce's schedule is pretty full, but she admits she would not have it any other way.

"I love it. I love being busy. Every time I have an hour off I'm doing something."

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