Wales flanker Sian Williams has been awarded Elite Athlete Status by Royal Air Force to play rugby professionally. The announcement means she is the first full-time professional Welsh female rugby player.
SAC Sian Williams, a Trade Group 18 Logistics (Mover) at RAF Brize Norton, joined the Royal Air Force in 2008. She has continuously represented the RAF and UK Armed Forces rugby union Teams.
The Wrexham born back row received her first cap for Wales in 2011 against Scotland. Sian has been playing rugby since she was eight years old, where she played alongside her brothers. She captained Wales Under 20.
She has become a key member of Rhys Edwards’ side in the last two seasons with 20 full caps and also represented Wales Women at Sevens. Sian plays regional rugby for Newport Gwent Dragons and for Worcester in the Premiership. Furthermore, SAC S Williams is a regular player for both the Combined Services Team and the RAF Rugby Union Womens 1st XV.
WRU Group Chief Executive Martyn Phillips said, “It is fantastic that the RAF has recognised Sian’s playing ability and commitment to the game in this way. As a Union, women’s rugby is one of our key strategic priorities and this recognition can only strengthen the quality of the national team and our efforts to encourage more women and girls to get involved.”
The RAF’s senior officer in Wales, Air Commodore Adrian Williams, said: “Fitness, courage and hard work are values we treasure in the Royal Air Force, and they’re equally important in rugby. So we’re proud that SAC Williams is now able to put those qualities to use both in the RAF and as a member of the Wales squad. Now that she has Elite Athlete Status she will be able to train full-time to play for Wales while also encouraging her RAF colleagues to enjoy the many sporting opportunities and healthy lifestyle the Service offers. We look forward to celebrating her achievements for Wales in the months and years ahead.”
Sian Williams said, “I joined the RAF because it is an elite organisation and I wanted to actively serve in the Armed Forces to make a difference.
“I am at a point in my rugby career where I want to keep learning and keep getting better. Achieving Elite Athlete Status gives me the time before the next Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017 to strive for excellence and do everything in my power to become a world class rugby player.”
RAF Rugby Union Womens’ Director Wg Cdr Mark Jackson said, “SAC S Williams’ potential to represent her nation over the coming three years was deemed exceptionally significant by the Royal Air Force. The required commitment from her was becoming increasingly challenging with the continuation of her primary role at RAF Brize Norton. Therefore it was essential to award SAC Williams with Elite Athlete Status to allow her to achieve her full capability to represent her country at the highest level. The Elite Athlete Status allows SAC Sian Williams to play rugby full-time professionally, whilst still being part of the Royal Air Force.”
Wales Women head coach Rhys Edwards said, “Sian has made huge strides since first coming to the fore as Wales U20 captain five years ago. Her work rate is second to none and she has shown great leadership qualities as Wales Women Sevens captain. She’s become a key member of the team through her own hard work and dedication and becoming a full-time athlete will help her to make further gains in her performance, both physically and tactically.”
Warrant Officer Alexander Thomson RAFRUW Head Coach added: “Sian Williams thoroughly deserves the award of Elite Athlete Status – she has worked tirelessly to improve as a player and she remains an absolute key member of the RAF Women’s Squad. She is always willing to impart her knowledge and experience to her team mates and she sets a fine example to which others can aspire. I have watched and encouraged her development closely over the last few years and she represents the RAF, UK Armed Forces, Worcester, Dragons and Wales outstandingly well every time she steps on the pitch. Elite Athlete Status will allow Sian to continue to improve and with the World Cup 2017 on her radar there are no limits to what she can achieve in the game.”
Photo above shows a very happy Sian Williams with WRU Group Chief Executive Martyn Phillips, and Air Commodore Adrian Williams, Air Officer for Wales.
You can see an interview with Sian here.
Report courtesy of the RAF/WRU