By Rosie Foley
Last Friday, Wales women announced their senior squad for their Autumn internationals, which included 20 uncapped players.The set up for this is so that these players will reach their prime for the next Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.
The selection for the Wales squad has been wholly focused from the regional programme, which had more organisation to it this year, with the 4 sides playing from September to October. Head coach Rowland Phillips said that ‘the regional programme has been very successful with regards to improving standards in the women’s game, and it’s delivered what we hoped it would. It’s enabled us to discover new players and its highlighted our strength and depth.’
Cardiff University student Liliana Podpadec has been through the regional and national system for Wales, and we asked for her thoughts on the development. Liliana began in the regional system, playing for the Dragon’s U18’s in the summer Seven’s series when she was 16. She then stayed with Dragons for two and a half years before moving to Blues this year. When she first started playing, Liliana said that the training was more challenging, and it advanced her as a player.
‘The training was more intense; my rugby had come on more than it had been when I played at club level. Playing with a different group of girls was enjoyable and it gave me a different outlook on rugby.’
Since Liliana started playing regional rugby, it has developed significantly, so that it can link into the national set up.
‘This year has been the biggest change in the regional set up, we had an intense 10 weeks with our regions which fed into the autumn internationals.’
‘The regional set up has allowed the players to develop into what the national squad want of them.’
With 20 uncapped players being named in the squad, Liliana thinks that the regional set up has allowed the youth of Wales to excel, and with having the experienced players alongside it helps shape the younger players.
‘It allows everyone to have an insight to senior rugby, which some of the 18-year-olds might not have had. It is a big step up. You’re playing alongside a lot of the national team within your region and against them is a good transition when bringing the young squad into training, as you have experienced players alongside them, helping coach them too’.
With the World Cup in three years, Liliana thinks that Welsh rugby is doing everything right.
‘Women’s national rugby is going in the right direction if regional still carries on as it is, the development of the game will allow them to have a big pool to choose from’.
Wales have the Autumn internationals to show that they have come on leaps and bounds. With the average age of the Wales team being 22, the team is very young and will be challenged by Phillips and his coaches. Phillips knows that ‘the Springboks have really pushed on their rugby programme, and they’ll be a big and physical challenge to kick-start our autumn series’.
When it comes to Hong Kong, Wales are ‘familiar’ with them as they played them at the World Cup last year. Phillips knows that they ‘play a quick game because they’ve got a lot of speed and agility in their side, so that encounter might warrant a different selection approach to the others. However, Phillips suggested that Canada could be their toughest game of the autumn series. He believes that how Wales play in that match ‘will give us clarity on how we move forward’.
Wales Women’s Autumn Fixtures – Cardiff Arms Park:
Saturday 10th November – Wales v South Africa (11:30)
Friday 16th November – Wales v Hong Kong (19:00) Saturday 24th November – Wales v Canada (11:30)