Rugby World Cup: Siwan Lillicrap to lead Wales Women in New Zealand

New Zealand’s Wales women’s team will be the first World Cup party to include players on professional contracts.
Place: Northland Events Centre, Whangarei Date: October 9, Sunday Start: 05:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website and app.

Number eight Siwan Lillicrap will captain Wales at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Center Hannah Jones led Wales in the last two games against Canada and England, with Lillicrap named on the bench for both games.

Jones is named vice-captain, and Lillicrap leads the 32-man squad.

“Siwan is a great captain on and off the field,” said Wales coach Ioan Cunningham.

“He has a great tactical mind and understands what to call and when to do it.

“His communication with the referees and his game management skills are second to none. He definitely benefits the team in many ways.”

Siwan Lillicrap (left) and Hannah Jones will form the lead in the New Zealand field
Siwan Lillicrap (left) and Hannah Jones will form the lead in the New Zealand field

Cunningham believes Lillicrap and Jones will “complement each other” to lead a team that includes 18 forwards and 14 backs.

“We are growing our leadership team and Hannah led the team against Canada and England this summer,” added Cunningham.

“Her work ethic is high and she will be a strong leader as well. Hannah is learning a lot from Siwan and the two have been working together for the past few weeks.”

Wales open their Pool A campaign against Scotland on Sunday 9 October before facing New Zealand on 16 October and Australia six days later.

The 12-team tournament is divided into three groups of four, with the top two and third-placed teams from each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals.

The wonderful four

Number eight Sioned Harries, fly-half Elinor Snowsill and prop Caryl Thomas will be competing in their fourth World Cup.

It’s a special moment for Harries, who was left out of the national team in 2020.

Wales number eight Sioned Harries plays his club rugby for Worcester
Wales number eight Sioned Harries plays his club rugby for Worcester

“Getting to New Zealand means a lot,” said Harries.

“Based on what I’ve experienced, being out of the team for three years will be sweeter.

“I’ve always had high standards for myself, but now I’m able to train full-time, so it’s a World Cup I have high expectations for myself and I want to do myself, my family, my team-mates and my friends proud.”

Nineteen players can make their debut in the tournament, including 19-year-old Sisilia Tuipulotu.

Another player who could make his World Cup debut is Lowri Norkett, whose sister Elli played at the 2014 World Cup before her tragic death in 2017 at the age of 20.

Norkett has also accepted the offer of a full-time contract until the end of the year, while Abbie Fleming and Robyn Wilkins move from part-time to full-time contracts in line with the rest of the squad.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” center Norkett said.

“From getting my first cap in Canada, to getting a contract until December, to booking my ticket to New Zealand, it’s been an incredible month.

“I think coaches reward hard work and even though I didn’t get a contract the first time, I kept working hard and it has paid off.

“Elli’s fondest memories are going to watch France in the 2014 Rugby World Cup when she was just 17.

“It’s amazing that now I’m going to do the same. He’s been my inspiration every time.

“I’ve had to work very hard to achieve this, but it’s all been so easy for me. To be honest, I’m at a loss for words. My family and my fiance are obviously very proud.”

Lowri Norkett has played two internationals since making his Wales debut against Canada
Lowri Norkett has played two internationals since making his Wales debut against Canada

Wales are also eligible to select center Kerin Lake, winger Lisa Neumann and forward Georgia Evans, who are recovering from long-term injuries.

It’s also a special call for Lake, who is fulfilling her long-held dream of competing in a World Cup after missing two games, the first after giving birth to nine-year-old son Jacob.

“It’s a little surreal,” Lake said.

“I know the coaches have made a bet on me because I’ve been fighting injuries for part of the summer.

“Once it sinks in I want to do everything I can to kick now and hopefully get into the team’s field.

“I wouldn’t be here from a rehab perspective if I hadn’t been a part of the full-time program.”

Players missing include Caitlin Lewis, Eloise Hayward, Liliana Podpadec and Manon Johnes.

Testing the build

Wales have lost their last five World Cup matches, including a 73-7 defeat against England.

“We’ve had two tough warm-up games, which is exactly what we needed, and we’re very excited about what lies ahead,” added Cunningham.

“We’re happy with the squad we’ve put together, we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do when we touch down in New Zealand next week.

“There were some strong discussions and you always look at the combinations, the scenarios we could face in New Zealand in the long term and, above all, ways to get the best players on the field. But overall we’re happy with where we are.”

Wales Rugby World Cup squad

Back: Keira Bevan (Bristol Bears), Lleucu George (Gloucester-Hartpury), Hannah Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury), Jasmine Joyce (Bristol Bears), Kerin Lake (Gloucester-Hartpury), Lisa Neumann (Gloucester-Hartpury), Ffion Lewis (University ) Worcester Warriors), Lowri Norkett (University of Worcester Warriors), Kayleigh Powell (Bristol Bears), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Niamh Terry (University of Worcester Warriors), Megan Webb (Bristol Bears), Robyn Wilkins (Exeter Chiefs), Carys Williams-Morris (Loughborough-Lightning).

Forwards: Alisha Butchers (Bristol Bears), Alex Callender (University of Worcester Warriors), Gwen Crabb (Gloucester-Hartpury), Georgia Evans (Saracens), Kat Evans (Saracens), Abbie Fleming (Exeter Chiefs), Cerys Hale (Gloucester-Hartpury), Sioned Harries (University of Worcester Warriors), Cara Hope (Gloucester-Hartpury), Natalia John (University of Worcester Warriors), Kelsey Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury), Bethan Lewis (Gloucester-Hartpury), Gwenllian Pyrs (Bristol Bears), Donna Rose (Saracens ), Siwan Lillicrap (Gloucester-Hartpury, captain), Carys Phillips (Worcester Warriors University), Caryl Thomas (Worcester Warriors University), Sisilia Tuipulotu (Gloucester-Hartpury).