A NEWPORT rugby star has spoken of breaking down barriers in sport and the challenges faced by female professional players.

Wales prop Cerys Hale has faced difficult hurdles throughout her career which has inspired her to help the next generation.

The 29-year-old has recently received a professional full-time contract with the Welsh Rugby Union, as well as working with the Dragons as a performance lead.

But she knows all to well how difficult it can be for women in the male-dominated sport where they are under-represented. But women's rugby is growing in popularity with Hale among those able to fullfil her ambitions.

South Wales Argus: RODNEY PARADE: The place Carys Hale plans to give back to the communityRODNEY PARADE: The place Carys Hale plans to give back to the community

Ms Hale, from Rogerstone, believes that it has been difficult balancing home, work and rugby for women in the environment.

She said: “It has been difficult to balance working and my ambitions of being the best that I can be at international level.

“I have got a role with the Dragons, and I am very fortunate to be given a full-time contract with the WRU, but it hasn’t always been easy.

“Growing up I was ambitious and wanted to play for Wales. I was playing for fun at the time and never really considered that it could be an option for me as there wasn’t that opportunity.

“It has been difficult being a woman in a rugby environment, up until the last 12 months we haven’t had the opportunity to have a career with Wales.

“But now I am very excited for the next generation, as they can aspire to become a rugby player from a young age.

“The fact that girls can dream of playing rugby at a young age will change the way that women’s rugby will be in Wales.”

Women face many obstacles on and off the field when playing the game with abuse hurdled towards them.

She added: “Personally I haven’t experienced it, but I have seen a lot of comments about how women shouldn’t play rugby or comments about how women look in rugby kits.

“To be honest we let those go over our head, we play for the love of the game whether its paid or not. Those comments don’t matter to us as we have belief in our group.”

Women’s rugby is underrepresented across Newport and the Gwent area, with Ms Hale and teammate Sisilia Tuipulotu the only two players representing Newport on the international stage.

South Wales Argus: Carys Hale at Rodney ParadeCarys Hale at Rodney Parade

Dragon’s rugby has set up a women’s development academy alongside the men’s at Ystrad Munch to change this.

Growing up, Ms Hale was inspired by watching the Dragons at Rodney Parade, and now plans to give back to her community in her new role at the club by inspiring the next generation of players.

She added: “I am passionate to ensure that there are more opportunities for girls across Newport and the Gwent areas to play rugby.

“In my role at the Dragons I focus on developing a pathway for women and girls in the game. If you look at the current Wales squad Gwent is really underrepresented as there are only two of us.

“I would really like that to change over the next few years and plan to build the pathway within the Newport region and across Gwent.

“I am passionate that not only can I inspire girls to play but create a pathway that can really grow the women’s game in the area and give back to the community.”

Since starting her journey in rugby at the age of 11 she has played for Newport High School Old Boys and the Dragons on her way to becoming an international star.

Now she is one of many players who have received a professional contract and could possibly be on her way to her third World Cup, sending the message to girls that dreams can come true.

She added: “It’s my third World Cup, it is quite refreshing to put everything into my journey to the World Cup.

“There is only two of us in Gwent that are contracted for Wales out of 29 full time contracts, and I am in a position where I can focus on making that squad.

“I feel grateful to have the opportunity to give what I can to compete on a world stage as its unbelievable to play in big tournaments.

“I grew up watching the six nations and just to be part of that is an unbelievable experience that you can't explain.

“Competing against other nations really inspires me and motivates me throughout the season.”