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Cunningham to lead Wales Women for next 12 months

IOAN Cunningham will lead Wales Women coaching team for the next 12 months up to and including the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

He will be assisted by Geraint Lewis, Richard Whiffin and World Rugby coaching intern Sophie Spence – the team that was put together last month, initially on an interim basis.

WRU Performance Director Nigel Walker said, “I’m pleased to put my faith in this young, exciting team of coaches one year out from the Rugby World Cup. As a Union, we are committed to providing the coaches and players with the support they need to give the squad the best possible preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“In addition to the coaching team, the programme will benefit from expert support in areas including strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, medicine, nutrition and performance analysis.  We are committed to building a world class women’s programme.

“Having carefully studied all the options, we feel putting our confidence in these coaches for the next 12 months is the best possible solution available to us at this time, both in terms of their coaching pedigree, the cohesion of the group and the much-needed stability they bring to the roles.”

A graduate of the WRU’s Elite Coaching Pathway, Cunningham cut his teeth within regional academy and international age grade rugby before working under Scarlets coaches Wayne Pivac and Brad Mooar.  Having taken charge of Wales U20 for last season’s Six Nations Championship, Ioan has since joined Geraint Lewis as a full-time WRU performance coach.

WRU Performance coach manager, Dan Clements, said, “Ioan is a highly skilled coach and has gathered extensive experience within pivotal roles of a number of high performing environments. Along with the rest of the management team, we have no doubt he will add huge value to the Wales Women set-up as head coach over the next 12 months”

Ioan Cunningham said, “I’m excited to work with this talented group of people and at the strides we can make in the coming months as we put the building blocks in place for Rugby World Cup 2021.

“It’s an honour and privilege for both coaches and players to be involved with any Rugby World Cup and we are now in a position to be able to put concrete plans in place having qualified for the global event and with two exciting campaigns to look forward to with the autumn matches and the Women’s Six Nations.”

Due to the biological bubbles required at this time, a new performance centre has been created for Wales Women at Principality Stadium. The centre includes a purpose-built gym, medical centre and team rooms and is adjacent to Cardiff Arms Park which will be their training and playing home for the season. The centre was in use throughout this weekend by the Wales Women squad for their first training camp since the announcement of the autumn squad.

Cunningham added, “It’s important to have a high-quality, consistent training venue and this facility will enable us to perform to the best of our ability.”

Wales Women play Japan, South Africa and Canada at Cardiff Arms Park next month with tickets now on sale via www.wru.wales/waleswomen

Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap added, “It’s great for us to have the news that we will be working with this group of coaches as we build through this autumn campaign and next year’s Women’s Six Nations to next year’s Rugby World Cup. We can’t wait to welcome crowds back to the Arms Park to help us start that journey.”

Wales Women autumn internationals:

Sunday, Nov 7: 5pm Wales Womens v Japan

Saturday, Nov 13: 12.15pm Wales Womens v SA

Sunday, Nov 21: 5pm Wales Womens v Canada

Wales Women autumn squad:

Forwards: Siwan Lillicrap (capt), Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Bethan Dainton, Kat Evans, Cerys Hale, Cara Hope, Gwen Crabb, Abbie Fleming, Georgia Evans, Natalia John, Madi Johns, Manon Johnes, Molly Kelly, Bethan Lewis, Robyn Lock, Liliana Podpadec, Gwenllian Pyrs, Donna Rose, Caryl Thomas

Backs: Keira Bevan, Leanne Burnell, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Jess Kavanagh, Courtney Keight, Kerin Lake, Caitlin Lewis, Ffion Lewis, Jade Mullen, Lisa Neumann, Elinor Snowsill, Niamh Terry, Flo Williams, Megan Webb, Robyn Wilkins