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WRU announces full-time contracts for 25 players

LAST week, the Welsh Rugby Union announced that 25 women had earned full time contracts for 2023.

The investment into Women’s rugby sees the number of players on full-time contracts double since the historic announcement of the first professional players to represent Wales in 2022.

The WRU’s initial announcement saw 12 players named on full-time contracts with a further 17 players on six-month contracts for the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Ioan Cunningham, Wales Women’s Senior Head Coach, will now have 25 players on full-time contracts as he prepares his Wales side for the forthcoming TikTok Women’s Six Nations championship.

Carys Williams-Morris*, the Loughborough Lightning centre, continues with Wales thanks to her RAF Elite Athlete status. All of the remaining 24 players named are on full-time deals.

Cunningham, who pledged his future to Wales by signing a new deal to the 2025 World Cup, led Wales to a third-place finish in last season’s TikTok Six Nations, their best position since 2009, and the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

WRU interim CEO Nigel Walker said: “Our stated aim is to put everything in place to create a world class international programme for women in Wales. The investment we put into the national programme last year paid clear dividends both on the field in terms of performances and results, and off it in terms of the all-round athlete development service provided within the programme.

“It’s important we don’t stand still and we believe the enhanced investment in the prorgamme this year will go some way, not only to developing these players, but others who join the squad for training and tournaments.”

Ioan Cunningham, the Wales Women’s Senior Head Coach, said: “We are thrilled to be able to reward these players for the commitment and level of performance and professionalism they showed throughout last year.

“The initial contracts enabled us to make significant improvement throughout the year, both in the Tik Tok Women’s Six Nations and then ultimately to be able to perform at the highest level at the Rugby World Cup.

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“We have reviewed and tweaked the contract model for the next period in our journey and it’s great to be able to reward these players with new contracts.

“Some players continue as full-time players, others have gone from part-time to full-time and we are very pleased that Alex Callender, Lowri Norkett, Megan Webb and Robyn Wilkins are now also on board full-time.  A reflection of their performance standards, along with Carys Williams-Morris continuing thanks to her employer the RAF.

“Our aim this year will be to continue to build on the improvements we made in 2022. We’ve made progress but we are very aware that all the other nations are also developing with contracts and full-time programmes so it’s vital to keep moving forward.

“However, we also have one eye on developing the next wave of players ahead of the next Rugby World Cup in 2025.

“It is a very exciting time for women’s rugby in Wales. The new Celtic Challenge, the U20s and U18s programmes are just some of the initiatives unearthing talented players who will no doubt put their hands up for international selection before long.”

Hannah Jones, Wales centre and one of the ’12 originals’ contracted in 2022, said: “I always wanted to be a rugby player and I can finally say my job is a professional rugby player. I hope to inspire and encourage other girls to pick up this brilliant sport with it being a career path now.

“Being contracted has had the biggest impact for myself and has meant having time to focus solely on my game.

“The analysis, recovery, gym and nutrition we now get has transformed me as a player for the better.

“I am physically and mentality in a good place and enjoying the programme and being challenged to be a better player each day.”

The newly contracted players are:

Abbie Fleming
Cerys Hale
Kerin Lake
Lleucu George
Lowri Norkett
Megan Webb
Niamh Terry
Sisilia Tuipulotu
Alex Callender
Bethan Lewis
Georgia Evans
Gwenllian Pyrs
Keira Bevan
Kelsey Jones
Natalia John
Elinor Snowsill
Alisha Butchers
Carys Phillips
Donna Rose
Ffion Lewis
Gwen Crabb
Hannah Jones
Lisa Neumann
Robyn Wilkins
Carys Williams-Morris *