THE Urdd girls rugby team have left Wales for New Zealand to challenge the world’s top teams in the World School Sevens competition.
Sevens coach Jonathan Hooper and Wales international Shona Powell-Hughes Wakley will coach a squad of 14 of the Urdd’s young ambassadors against some of the best sevens sides in the world in the age group.
The youngsters, many of whom played for Wales in the U18 Six Nations festival last season will also have an opportunity to learn and share experiences by visiting schools and communities in Auckland. The team will share Wales’ culture and the Welsh language with children in New Zealand as well as learn about the Maori language and culture.
Liza Burgess, Lead Female Pathway Coach said, “We are thrilled to be working with the Urdd on this project. Coaches Jonathan Hooper and Shona Powell-Hughes Wakley have put an exciting squad together for this incredible experience with some players who were already in our pathway and others who will gain their first international rugby experience.
“Following on from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, this collaboration provides a fantastic opportunity to test themselves as they progress on the player pathway.”
Captain Gwennan Hopkins, who was also one of the Wales U18 captains in the 15-a-side Six Nations festival season said,
“It’s such a masssive privilege to captain the side but we have such a great group of girls they will make it easy for me.
“Watching the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand was very inspiring, it’s definitely something I’d like to do in the future if I can stay on the pathway.
“Hopefully we will be playing against some players who will play internatonal rugby in the future. That’s my aim too so hopefully it will give us a good idea of what we need to do.
“We are also going to exchange the Welsh and Maori cultures with school visits and we are looking forward to seeing the haka at some point too.”
Urdd Gobaith Cymru secured the place in the competition and funding from Taith. Sian Lewis, Urdd Chief Executive said:
“We are extremely proud of this venture at the end of our centenary year. It’s the first time for us as an organisation to take a girls’ team to represent Wales internationally to represent Wales.
“We have a very strong relationship with WRU, particularly through rugby sevens all year round and promoting and empowering girls through sport and culture is one of our key aims in line with our #FelMerch campaign, and this opportunity has been made possible thanks to funding from Taith.”
Back in Wales, the WRU U18 pathway is well underway for the season with skills development centres having taken place throughout the autumn in all regions. Regional U18 training has also begun in earnest ahead of a full regional programme of matches in January and February leading into the 2023 international U18 programme.
Urdd squad for World Schools 7s:
Gwennan Hopkins (captain) Cardiff Rugby
Amy Williams Dragons
Catrin Stewart RGC
Erin Jones RGC
Gabby Healan Cardiff Rugby
Jessica Rogers Ospreys
Katie Bevans Dragons
Katie Sims Cardiff Rugby
Lucy Davies Scarlets
Lucy Isaac Dragons
Natalia Barnes Dragons
Nia Fajeyisan Cardiff Rugby
Rachel Thomas-Evans Cardiff
Sian Jones RGC