Major teams: Newcastle, Wasps, Worcester, Auckland Maori
Test span: 1998-10
When Mel Berry captained Wales at the 2002 World Cup as a 20-year-old, there was clearly something a bit special about the youngster who former England international Sue Day calls “one of the best defensive back-row players” ever to play the game.
Having made her debut in 1998 as a teenager, Berry went on to win 93 caps for her country, leading Wales for most of her career until retiring in 2010.
Perhaps one of the best ways to highlight how important Berry was to Wales over those years was the fact that she played in six different positions – all across the back row, at scrum-half and in both centre spots – although she is probably best known for her barnstorming efforts from the back of the scrum.
“She was a tremendous player and a tremendous captain in all senses,” said Jason Lewis, who coached her with Wales.
Her club career took in stints with Wasps, Worcester and Newcastle and she also spent time learning her trade in Auckland – even featuring for the Auckland Maori side.
Berry experienced highs and lows with Wales throughout her career. She describes Wales’ failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup as the most heart-breaking moment she ever had in the game, but she was also a key member of the team that beat England in 2009 for the first time ever.
In fact, some of her best memories will have come from games against England. Berry led Wales at U18 and senior level to wins over the English while she was also part of the 2006 Wales Sevens squad that beat the same nation to the European title.
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Now working in sport full-time across Yorkshire, Berry has an appetite for coaching where her versatile playing years will surely make her a dead cert for success at whatever level she chooses.