BEING closer to her roots following a job change is bringing with it rewards for Wales prop Cerys Hale both on and off the rugby pitch.

Newport-born Maths teacher Hale now works in Caerphilly having switched from a school in Hereford, and she believes that move has given better balance to her busy life.

“I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my work-rugby-life balance,” Hale, who starts for Wales in tomorrow’s Women’s Six Nations game against France at Cardiff Arms Park (kick-off noon).

“I don’t have to travel so far and it’s nice to work locally as there’s more of a buzz about Welsh rugby in work too.

“I work for ACT Schools at their Caerphilly centre. Pupils are from different backgrounds and many of them struggled in a mainstream school, so we have smaller classes which helps us build relationships with the pupils to help them achieve.

“Playing for Wales is having a good impact on my relationship with the pupils. They now see me as someone who represents the country.

“When I first started there, they were quite quiet, but now they’re talking about watching us on the telly.

“Some of them have got into rugby and hopefully they can see that if they put their mind to something, they can achieve at it.”

Hale started playing rugby after nagging her dad to set up a girls team at Newport High School Old Boys.

And she hasn’t forgotten the support she got from her first club, particularly now as they try to deal with the flood damaged caused by Storm Dennis.

“It’s been devastating to see the whole pitch and clubhouse under water, but there’s been a good response from the community and local clubs who have given lots of help,” she added.

“It’s times like this that you really appreciate the value of a rugby family, not just the people on the pitch but the whole community.”

Hale and her Wales team-mates will be hoping to give the nation a reason to cheer tomorrow.

“This campaign has been really exciting for me,” she said.

“With Amy Evans retiring, I’ve had an opportunity to have a bit more game time and I’ve really been trying to establish myself as a starting player.

“My game has benefitted from that and I’ve been working hard on my scrummaging and hopefully that’s helping the team.

“We’ve all been working hard on our fitness and other aspects of our performance.

“We’re all buying into that and hopefully it will pay off in the end.

“We’ve been to some tough places during training and hopefully that will help when it comes to matches, especially as we approach the World Cup.”

Wales have made five changes from the side that lost to Ireland in Dublin in the last round of matches.

Centre Megan Webb, wing Caitlin Lewis and lock Georgia Evans will feature in a championship fixture for the first time.

Meanwhile, Kayleigh Powell returns to the starting line-up at full-back after having to withdraw from the Ireland game due to injury.

And Bethan Lewis comes into the back row alongside Alisha Butchers and captain Siwan Lillicrap.

Wales: K Powell; C Lewis, M Webb, K Lake, L Neumann; R Wilkins, K Bevan; G Pyrs, K Jones, C Hale, G Evans, G Crabb, A Butchers, B Lewis, S Lillicrap (capt).

Reps: M Kelly, C Hope, R Lewis, R Lock, M Johnes, F Lewis, C Keight, L Smyth.