Rugby World Cup: Siwan Lillicrap to lead Wales women in New Zealand
Number eight Siwan Lillicrap will captain Wales’ squad for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Centre Hannah Jones had led Wales in the last two matches against Canada and England, with Lillicrap named on the bench for both games. Jones has been named as vice-captain, with Lillicrap leading the 32-strong squad.
“Siwan is a brilliant captain on and off field,” said Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham. She has a great tactical mind and an understanding of what calls to make at what moment. Her communication with referees and her game management skills are second to none. She certainly benefits the team in many ways.”
Cunningham believes Lillicrap and Jones will “complement each other” in leading a squad that includes 18 forwards and 14 backs.
“We are growing our leadership group and Hannah has led the team by example against Canada and England this summer,” added Cunningham.
“Her work ethic is high and she is going to be a strong leader too. Hannah is learning a lot from Siwan and the two have worked together in recent weeks.”
Wales open their Pool A campaign against Scotland on Sunday, 9 October before facing hosts New Zealand on 16 October and then Australia six days later. The 12-team tournament is split into three groups of four, with the top two from each pool and the leading two third-place sides qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Number eight Sioned Harries, fly-half Elinor Snowsill and prop Caryl Thomas are set to participate in their fourth World Cup. It is a special moment for Harries who had been omitted from the squad in 2020.
“It means a lot to get to New Zealand,” said Harries.
“It will taste sweeter based on what I’ve gone through, being away from the squad for three years. I’ve always had high standards for myself but I’m able to train full-time now, so it’s a World Cup where I have high expectations for myself and I want to make myself, my family, my team-mates and my friends proud.”
Nineteen players could make their tournament debuts, including 19-year-old Sisilia Tuipulotu.
Another player who could make her first World Cup appearance is Lowri Norkett, whose sister Elli played in the 2014 World Cup before she tragically passed away in 2017, aged 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 all other squad players.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” said centre Norkett.
“From getting my first cap in Canada, to getting a contract up to 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 around, I kept working hard and it’s paid off. My fondest memories of Elli are of going to watch her in France in the 2014 Rugby World Cup when she was just 17. It’s amazing I’m going to do the same now. She’s been my inspiration every time. I’ve had to work very hard to achieve this whereas everything came very easy to her. I’m a bit lost for words to be honest. My family and fiancé are obviously very proud.”
Wales are also able to select centre Kerin Lake, wing Lisa Neumann and forward Georgia Evans, who have been recovering from long-term injuries. It is also a special call-up for Lake, who is fulfilling her long-time dream of making it to a World Cup having missed out on two, the first after giving birth to nine-year-old son Jacob.
“It’s a bit surreal,” said Lake.
“I know the coaches have taken a gamble on me as I’ve been fighting back from injury for most of the summer. Once it sinks in I just want to do everything I can to kick on now and hopefully get on the pitch for the team. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been part of the full-time programme from a rehab point of view.”
Players who have missed out include Caitlin Lewis, Eloise Hayward, Liliana Podpadec and Manon Johnes.