by John Jones
Cardiff University’s Izzy Webb spoke of her excitement after being selected for the senior Wales’ Women’s hockey squad for a three-match Test series against France later this month.
The third year physiotherapy student from Cwmbran forms part of a 22-strong squad making the trip to Antibes, with Head Coach Kevin Johnson’s selection offering a combination of youth and experience.
Despite only picking up a hockey stick for the first time aged 13, Webb has already enjoyed a successful playing career across South Wales.
Encouraged by her teacher whilst at comprehensive school, Webb joined Gwent Hockey Club, where she remained for a few seasons, before later making a switch to Penarth Ladies at 16.
After thriving at Penarth, the midfielder decided to try out for Swansea Spartans 1st XI, who represent Wales in the EHL Conference West, and has featured regularly for the side for the past four seasons.
Webb’s talent was spotted early on by those in the national set-up, and she won her first Welsh cap against Scotland at just 16 years of age, following a remarkable rise from the Under-18 squad.
Since then, the 20-year old has somewhat cemented her place in the squad, representing Wales at the European Hockey Championships and making the long list for last year’s Commonwealth Games.
The three match series against the French later this month is Wales’ first competitive fixture of the calendar year, and there is confidence amongst Johnson’s squad that they can repeat the emphatic 4-1 victory they secured when the two teams last met in 2016.
“I am so pleased to be back in the full swing of Welsh training again” said Webb.
“I am excited to see the impact I can make on the squad against France. I want to take this opportunity to show how I’ve pushed to improve my fitness and earn my place in the squad”.
“France are a good side, but I feel that we still have a good chance against them. We have new players in the squad [including Cwmbran’s Sara Rebecca Davies], so I’m excited to see what we can do”.
Crucially, the French clashes will provide the Welsh squad with an opportunity to make important preparations ahead of the FIH Hockey Series Finals in Valencia this summer.
The Finals will see Wales take on some of the world’s strongest sides, with Italy, South Africa and world number sevens Spain among their pool opponents.
With a chance to play on the world stage at stake, Webb admits that competition for a place in the squad is high, but remains hopeful of securing a spot.
“Honestly anything could happen” she said. “Your position in the squad is never set in stone as there’s always someone pushing for your place, but that’s what makes it competitive and makes you work harder”.
“We have many training camps and matches coming up where it’s my chance to prove myself and earn the right to be there”.
“Wales have performed well against other strong teams and, although we aren’t full time players, I feel that if we believe in our processes and work hard for each other, as a team we stand a good chance against them”.