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Wales fly-half Elinor Snowsill spent years juggling her work with being a fully-fledged international rugby player, until in January her life changed when the WRU made her one of 12 professional players.
Snowsill graduated from the University of Loughborough in 2010 with a degree in psychology, a year after making her debut for Wales against Sweden aged just 20.
The 32-year-old has since spent the vast majority of her adult life having to fit international rugby into her busy work schedule, launching her own healthy food business, Onest Food at the age of 23, before moving on from that at 27.
The Bristol Bears fly-half joined the charity School of Hard Knocks in 2017, working there until January 2022, when she was finally able to commit to her rugby career full time, 11 years after making her international debut.
Snowsill now looks back on her time balancing an international rugby career with a full-time job and can barely believe she was able to do so for so long.
She said: “I think going into the weekend not stressed is a huge thing, looking back now, even though I did it for the past 11 years, I don’t know how I did it because it’s just insane.
“There are still players doing it in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations now, working full-time, being pulled left right and centre and then going out and putting in a performance.
“It’s very, very difficult to do, whereas now we have the best chance to put out a performance and we’ve seen that from the first two results.”
The Wales fly-half, who has 64 caps for her country quickly identified the biggest difference in her preparation and recovery since turning professional: not having a sore back.
“I realised the other day, I haven’t got any back problems anymore because I’m not spending two or three hours in a car driving around, driving to work and then driving to rugby,” she said.
“That was something I had to see physio for and it’s disappeared because I get a lot more time to rest and recover and I’m not driving all over the place and working.
“It (turning professional) has allowed me to be able to fine tune my skills, because as a fly-half you need to be pretty well-rounded, but also it has given me the time to work on my contact skills but not in live training, and that’s been really helpful for me.
“And just mentally I’m feeling a lot more stable, which is not to say I was unstable before, but I was definitely a lot more emotional and running purely on adrenaline, which then impacts your perception of things that happen, how you react to events and relationships in your life.
“So for me turning professional has had a knock-on effect on every aspect of my life because I’ve got more time and energy and I’m a lot less stressed.”
Although Snowsill is extremely grateful to have been given a professional contract, she knows that there is a lot more work to do.
She added: “12 of us have got professional contracts and then another bunch of girls have got part time ones, there are still girls who are working full time and there are still girls who are starting who haven’t got a contract.
“Speaking from my position as a contracted player, we have so much more time to prepare, it’s more about the analysis and the tiny details that can really win you games.
“That’s what we have a lot more time to do now instead of working all week, turning up for a weekend with coaches having to cram loads into two days and then suddenly you’re on the pitch singing the national anthem ahead of an international match.”
Despite the difficulties it brought, Snowsill looks back on her time with School of Hard Knocks fondly.
She said: “It really gave me a lot of value to my life when I was doing it, it kept my feet firmly on the floor.
“I remember playing for the Barbarians a few years ago in America, then I flew back and I was straight back into work on Monday.
“I was working with one of the kids who had been expelled after a fight, and they don’t care that you’ve just flown back from America having beaten USA!”
This year’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations stands to be the most accessible in the Championship’s history.
Spanning 136 countries, and available on terrestrial and streaming platforms, the Women’s Championship has never had such comprehensive broadcast coverage.
Not to mention Title Partner TikTok reaching fans via its entertainment platform with exclusive W6N content.
In what is a huge year of Women’s rugby, the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, which once again has its own window in the international rugby calendar, is set up reach more fans than ever before.
This TikTok Women’s Six Nations is the first one in which Welsh players have been professional, and they have showed immediate progress, notably turning a 45-0 home defeat to Ireland a year ago to a 27-19 success away to the same opponent to kick off their 2022 campaign.
Consecutive wins to begin the campaign was a strong start before a heavy defeat to England, 58-5, which demonstrated the work still left to be done.
Next up is a clash with France, the other remaining unbeaten side in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, and a team who beat Wales 53-0 last year.
“It’s been mixed to be honest with you, obviously we were really chuffed with how the start of the Six Nations went, a great win out in Ireland and then managed to get a win against Scotland as well so people are happy and feeling confident,” said Snowsill, who will start at fly-half on Friday night.
“Obviously last week didn’t go quite to plan, and I think that’s an indication that the contracts can only do so much in terms of short term, but hopefully long term we can start to close the gap on teams like England.
“We’ve reviewed it, it was tough reviewing the game, but we’ve moved on now and we’re all focused on France.
“I think it is a great opportunity to learn from it because so much of the game is within our control and ways we need to be a bit smarter, so hopefully as a squad we can learn from it and we’ve got another huge challenge coming up with France, so I think people are ready for the rest of the Six Nations.”
The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the Women’s Championship visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv/