The Saracens and Wales front-rower talks banger racing, muddy moments and sea creatures

Downtime with… Wales prop Donna Rose

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch? 

When I was playing for Trojans as a centre, the ref slipped on the wet mud. The ball came to me but I knocked on because I was laughing too much and the game had to stop.

Any practical jokes in Wales camp? 

We play a game where there are ‘killers’. No one knows who they are and you can’t be left alone or they can kill you. When you’re killed you have to be dramatic in front of everyone, so that can be funny.

Do you have any nicknames? 

Doni Don. I don’t know where it’s come from but it’s stuck with Siwan (Lillicrap) and Jaz (Joyce). I secretly love it.

What about phobias? 

I won’t swim deep in the sea in case I see a shark. People tell me they’re not in the UK but it’s the sea, they can swim anywhere right?!

What annoys you? 

People needing me on rest days so I have to get off my sofa and stop watching crime programmes. I like crime dramas, thrillers, like The Fall, but I also like true crime documentaries.

Any superstitions? 

No new shoes on the table, crossing on the stairs and walking over three drains – if you do then you have to say ‘toast’! And you can’t lie on someone’s life.

Your most embarrassing moment? 

In the autumn I was shouting something in a meeting and my tooth – I have a denture – fell out right in front of our coach, Ioan Cunningham. He didn’t notice luckily but some of the girls did! They were in hysterics.

Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with? 

This question makes me claustrophobic.

If you could have one superpower… 

Teleporting – I do a lot of driving. I live in Southampton, so it’s roughly two hours, 45 minutes to Wales training and one hour, 50 minutes to Saracens. And from Wales to Saracens is three hours.

How do you pass the time in the car? 

I listen to audio books. Alun Wyn Jones’s and Joe Marler’s are really good. Marler’s is really funny and just the way he reads it is perfect.

If you could be one team-mate, who would it be? 

Jasmine Joyce, so I can run to the fridge quicker!

The silliest thing you’ve ever bought? 

I’m forever shopping on Wish for things I don’t need and won’t use.

If your house was on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save? 

My M&S slippers.

Best advice you’ve ever received? 

If you want anything doing, do it yourself.

Do you have any surprising hidden talents? 

Driving cars over ramps and jumping through fire?! I’ve banger raced since I was 11. My family are really into it.

I did a stunt where I had to drive up a ramp and over two caravans that were on fire. I loved it. The feeling is amazing.  When you’ve spun out and are facing cars racing towards you at 60-70mph, you’re thinking, ‘S***, they’ll hit me’, but you can’t get out so have to embrace it.

When I was contracted in the Premiership (with Saracens), I stopped doing it as much. The last time I did it, a screw cut into my leg. Luckily it was in pre-season; it’s the worst injury I’ve had.

Your Mastermind specialist subject? 

Killer whales. My favourite tattoo is of a killer whale on my left leg with the word ‘freedom’. I’m a massive fan of killer whales, ever since watching Free Willy.

I know lots of facts, like every single one has a different mark on their back and pods speak different languages.

You used to be a chef… 

Yes. The hours meant, because of rugby, I couldn’t be a chef any more, but I knew I was more hands-on and needed a trade. So at 24, I did an apprenticeship in carpentry and I love it. Now I’m a rugby player!

How’d you like to be remembered?

I came from nothing so I’d like to remind the young girls out there, no matter your past you make your own future. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of Rugby World.

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