As the 2016 Women in Sport Week gets off to a start, Welsh women's rugby has received a welcome boost, thanks to Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and Gold Coast 2018 funding. The funding, secured by Team Wales, will be used by the Welsh Rugby Union towards preparing a sevens squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
2018 will be the first time ever for women's rugby sevens to be included in the Commonwealth Games. The Games will also be the first opportunity for the likes of Jaz Joyce - who recently competed as part of Team GB's first ever women's sevens squad at the Rio Olympic Games - to represent their own nation as part of Team Wales.
The CGF Gold Coast 2018 funding is being used to identify and develop talent and provide intense training and Gold Coast preparation camps. It further enhances investment made by the Welsh Rugby Union and Sport Wales in the Women's Sevens programme. This programme has been running over the past 4 years with the aim of ensuring that the Welsh squad is fully prepared and in the best possible position to qualify for Gold Coast 2018.
Caroline Spanton, National Women's Rugby Manager at the Welsh Rugby Union Group said: "These are exciting times for Welsh women's rugby and we're seeing more and more talented athletes coming through. Qualifying for the 2018 Commonwealth Games is a big ambition of ours, and this funding is a great boost for us.
"We've already held talent days in the north and south of Wales, which have helped us attract new players to the squad - including athletes from other sports. We're now planning intense training camps which will make sure that we're in a really strong position to qualify and compete at the next Commonwealth Games."
Chris Jenkins, Chief Executive of Commonwealth Games Wales said: "Now that the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio are over, all eyes are turning towards Gold Coast 2018. We are very pleased that the WRU have taken the initiative and are putting mechanisms in place to ensure that there's a Welsh women's sevens presence when the sport appears on the Commonwealth Games schedule for the first time in 2018.
"We're particularly glad that we were successful in securing additional funding from the CGF Gold Coast 2018 towards the Welsh squad's preparations for Gold Coast. By targeting efforts at competing in the 2018 Games, the WRU are not only raising the profile of the Commonwealth Games but also that of Welsh women's rugby which is great news for the future of the sport here in Wales."
Sarah Powell, Chief Executive of Sport Wales, said: “Rio was a great showcase for rugby 7s and our very own Jaz Joyce shone on the world stage, becoming an invaluable role model for others hungry to represent Wales at future games. We want to capitalise on this and build a system that continues to produce fantastic players like Jaz. There’s a strong partnership in place between Sport Wales and the WRU and it’s great to see that further funding will be used to develop our talented players here in Wales along with the teams of expert coaches and staff that work hard to get them to that level.”
View our video to watch the women in training and hear what qualifying for the 2018 Commonwealth Games would mean to them.