Source: ©INPHO/Craig Watson

A New-look Welsh Squad

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Ioan Cunningham has announced the names of 42 players to form the first Welsh training squad for 2022

They are:

Ffion Lewis (Worcester Warriors)
Keira Bevan (Bristol Bears)
Megan Davies (Exeter Chiefs)
Emma Swords (Harlequins)
Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears)
Flo Williams (Wasps)
Robyn Wilkins (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Lleucu George (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Kerin Lake (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Gemma Rowland (Wasps)
Hannah Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Lowri Norkett (Pontyclun Falcons)
Meg Webb (Bristol Bears)
Courtney Keight (Bristol Bears)
Bethan Wakefield (Bath)
Caitlin Lewis (Exeter Chiefs)
Sian Davies (Lampeter)
Lisa Neumann (Sale Sharks)
Jazz Joyce (Bristol Bears)
Carys Williams (Wasps)
Kayleigh Powell (Bristol Bears)
Niamh Terry (Exeter Chiefs)
Gwenllian Pyrs (Sale Sharks)
Cara Hope (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Donna Rose (Saracens)
Cerys Hale (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Madison Johns (Porth Harlequins)
Kat Evans (Saracens)
Carys Phillips (Worcester Warriors)
Kelsey Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Molly Kelly (Sale Sharks)
Abbie Fleming (Exeter)
Gwen Crabb (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Natalia John (Bristol Bears)
Liliana Podpadec (Llandaff North)
Sisilia Tuipulotu (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Alex Callender (Worcester Warriors)
Alisha Butchers (Bristol Bears)
Bethan Lewis (Gloucester-Hartpury)
Manon Johnes (Bristol Bears)
Siwan Lillicrap (Bristol Bears)
Georgia Evans (Saracens)

Inevitably they are dominated by players in the Prem 15s, so congratulations to the five who are not: Bethan Wakefield, Liliana Podpadec, Lowri Norkett, Madison Johns and Sian Davies. Of these Wakefield is the exception, a member of an English club aspiring to join the elite league.

In what be a unique feature for an initial squad, there are 22 backs but only 20 forwards. You can suggest all sorts of reasons for this, but an ongoing weakness of Welsh packs has been the lack of size and power in the back-5. Siwan Lillicrap, outstanding figure as she is, would be better placed on the flank rather than No 8.

One of the new additions to the ranks is the teenager Sisilia Tuipulotu, who has provided her club with precisely that ingredient this season.

Carys Williams is a surprise name on the list. She has just announced she is leaving Wasps and has represented England in the recent past. Her move marks an encouraging reversal of trends: both Meg Jones and Lucy Packer crossed the bridge in the other direction and have worn the white shirt.

There are no fewer than 18 players here who represent the top four clubs in England. They surely must set the tone for really high standards over the coming campaigns.

With the Six Nations not starting till late March, Cunningham and his assistants have plenty of time to familiarise themselves with the newcomers and assess their abilities. There was a first training session lasting three days (21-23 January), but there should be opportunities to add more, as the work goes on to refine the final squad.

With a new coaching team, new faces, a lot of highly talented players and above all new contracts, surely now Wales can put the dark days behind them and provide their fans with positive results.