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25 players to be contracted by WRU in major women's game shake-up

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by PA)

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The Welsh Rugby Union is set to offer its first contracts to female players as part of a major investment in its women’s performance programme that will see twelve-month deals given to 25 Wales players. There will be up to ten professional contracts and up to 15 retainer contracts, along with match and training fees. The contracts will be in place from January 1.  

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WRU performance director Nigel Walker said: “I’m delighted to be able to establish the first contracts for our female players. We are committed to making the women’s programme one of the best in the world and this announcement is a first but major step in the right direction.

“The players have had a key role to play in this process to date and we feel this is the best way to make real gains on the world stage in the short and longer-term. The players and coaches will now get on with the job in hand of preparing for three exciting autumn international matches before the first set of contracts are offered to the players who, the coaches feel, have the most potential to be as competitive as possible at next year’s Rugby World Cup. I’m optimistic about what can be achieved in the next twelve months.”

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Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap added: “As players, we feel this is the best model for us at this stage. It’s a structure that gives us an opportunity to prepare for the Rugby World Cup in a better place. 

“It will allow some of our players to commit to being professional athletes and also take charge of certain tasks on behalf of the team, for example around analysis, and others to make decisions around their personal circumstances that will allow them to train and recover in a more manageable way so that we can make strides forward as a group.”

Head coach Ioan Cunningham said” “We firmly believe this new way of working will make a huge difference to how competitive we can be at next year’s World Cup. We will be able to go from catching up with players at weekend training camps and one midweek session to training up to four times a week. We will be able to develop individual performance plans for the players to manage and maximise their potential.”

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In addition to player contracts, there are set to be further staff appointments around performance lifestyle advice, psychology and other sciences, along with initiatives to grow the top end of the game in Wales. Cunningham’s team are set to open a three-game November series this Sunday against Japan, with games versus South Africa and Canada to follow.  

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