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'This is Carys Williams, but she's running on for England. What's going on here?!'

By Lucy Lomax
Carys Williams-Morris poses for a portrait during the Wales for the 2021 Rugby World Cup headshots session at Rydges Hotel on October 01, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand.

As Wales prepare to take on Australia in their final pool match at the Rugby World Cup, former England player Carys Williams-Morris has been given the nod to start in the centres alongside captain Hannah Jones.

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In what will be her first ever World Cup appearance Williams-Morris said: “Not being involved in these last two games, I’ve stayed really positive and worked hard and so to get my chance now against Australia I just hope I can bring what I want to the game.

“I’m just embracing my journey and my time here and loving being part of the team and with all the girls. I’m very grateful to be here and never thought it could happen.”

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The reason the centre never thought it could happen was due to previously being capped by England. It was only late last year when World Rugby approved its birth right amendment allowing players to transfer unions that a previously closed door opened up.

Williams-Morris was capped five times by the Red Roses, her latest coming in 2019, being offered a professional contract by the RFU in January of that year and playing for the national set up for eight months.

“I didn’t think it would be possible for me to play for Wales after previously being capped for England,” said the 29-year-old. “The fact that the rule was changed meant it all fell into place nicely for me and was signed off.

“I obviously sound very English and was born and brought up in England, but both my parents are Welsh and all our family as well. I was brought up at home speaking Welsh, have always supported Wales through the Six Nations and then when I was about 16 or 17 I was at college in England playing in the rugby academy there, and got the call up to play for England Under 20s.

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“Then last year the rules changed where if you’ve not played for country for three years, you can play for another nation if you qualify for them.”

The midfield player who currently plays for Premier 15s side Loughborough Lightning began training with Wales in January this year before being officially given the go ahead to wear the three feathers and admits it was a huge relief to receive the green light.

“In all honesty, I didn’t enjoy my time playing for England in the U20s and wasn’t comfortable in that environment. I’d always wanted to play for Wales, and being capped is something that I know has made my family really proud.

“I think it’s always important to be honest and transparent with people and, I took the opportunity when it came around for England and then again for Wales.

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Williams-Morris’ dreams continued to come true as shortly after being granted permission to play for Wales by World Rugby, she was awarded elite athlete status by her employers, the RAF, meaning she will be able to train full-time for club and country for the next year.

However, the centre admits it will be strange seeing a few familiar faces once again at the World Cup.

“It’ll be interesting to see my old England team mates in New Zealand, I used to play for Litchfield so know players like Emily Scarratt well. I expect I’ll get some stick from them!

“However, I probably got more stick when I played for England in the Six Nations against Wales. I came off the bench and the commentators said: ‘This is Carys Williams, but she’s running on for England. What’s going on here?!’

“In less than a year I’ve gone from thinking I would never be able to play for Wales to going to a World Cup and thanks to the RAF and my elite athlete status I’m able to train full time.”

And now for Wales the focus will be on the Wallaroos after they come into this weekend’s match off the back of a tight win over Scotland.

Speaking about having Williams-Morris in the World Cup squad and in the starting XV to face Australia in their final and crucial pool game, Head Coach Ioan Cunningham said: “With Carys at 13, she’s a big presence there in the centre which is what we what to see this weekend with the physical side of her game.

“It’s a good opportunity for her to put her hand up in a huge game. We have to start on the front foot. If we step off at all it’s going to be a tough afternoon.”

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