Source: Exeter Chiefs

Welsh Retainer Contracts – The World Cup is looming

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The Wales Rugby Union has fulfilled its promise to provide retainer contracts to complement the twelve full-time contracts awarded earlier this month.

The nine players are: Abbie Fleming (Exeter Chiefs), Bethan Lewis (Gloucester-Hartpury), Caitlin Lewis (Exeter Chiefs), Cerys Hale (Gloucester-Hartpury), Georgia Evans (Saracens), Gwen Crabb (Gloucester-Hartpury), Kat Evans (Saracens), Kerin Lake (Gloucester-Hartpury) and Niamh Terry (Exeter Chiefs).

This is heartening news for the Welsh squad as they face a 6 Nations this spring and, even more important, a World Cup in October.

This brings us a fraction closer to the professionalisation of the women’s game. Inevitably it’s a case of little by little.

One fascinating detail as more and more nations offer contracts – how is the total decided? Is it the size of the national purse or the number of athletes deemed worthy?
In Wales’ case it makes 21 players on pro- or semi-pro terms. There is scope to extend the number of retainers to 15, says Ioan Cunningham, the head coach. That is more excellent news. With 23 players called up for internationals the total of 21 would always leave two players attending on amateur terms.

Of course all the recipients belong to an English club – that is WRU policy. The sooner it can be discarded the better. Wales is far too proud a rugby nation to need to send its best players ‘abroad’ to fulfil their ambitions.

Likely Effects

The fascinating unknown is how quickly a team can advance with this financial backing. The psychological boost it gives cannot be underestimated. Players now know their commitment is valued; their hard work is getting the reward it deserves.

Welsh fans must now be hoping for a much improved set of performances in the 6N. There they have three home games, including Italy and Scotland, which Cunningham must surely see as central targets. That would set the barrel rolling nicely.

In the World Cup Wales face one tough challenge, as they are pitted against the hosts in Pool A. But their other opponents, Australia and – in all probability – Scotland, mean that they could certainly record two victories and hope to move through to the knock-out stages. Prospects like that tend to sharpen minds. And the senior players can remind their fellows of the great victory they achieved over Ireland on the final day of the 2017 World Cup in Belfast.

Next time: Playing Strength and Home Advantage

Pictured above Abbie Fleming and Niamh Terry on the right of the photo.