After twelve years in charge of Welsh International Rugby the Warren Gatland era is set to come to an end after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It’s fair to say that his time as Wales manager is ending on a high with his side looking to continue their record-breaking fourteen game unbeaten run. After winning the Grand Slam in this year’s Six Nations they have moved to second in the world rankings behind New Zealand.
However, it’s not just the men’s team that are making an impact, after finishing bottom of the 2018 Women’s Six Nations table the manager Rowland Phillips set out a new intense regional pre-season training programme to aid preparations for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup which his Welsh side will be attending after they qualified.
The seven week programme was designed to see better standards, better fitness levels and certainly on the evidence of the 2019 Six Nations tournament the programme itself seems to have delivered. Having drawn against Italy the Wales team went on to secure victories against Scotland and Ireland leaving them fourth in the table.
One of the players to benefit from the new training programme is Wales International Hannah Jones, the centre this week spoke to Chadwick Media about her career and this years Six Nations.
Biggest influence on your rugby career?
A lot of people have influenced me in my playing career and continue to do so. I started to play rugby at seven years old with Crynant RFC boys team, which was part of my school at ysgol Brynamman. I had a great P.E teacher (Miss Wilkins) who encouraged me to play the game as she had also played rugby and hockey at the highest level.
However back then I used to watch my cousins play and I would nag my parents each week to join in. After some persuading my dad gave in and my parents would take me training whilst also watching every game. They still watch every match now whether it’s a club or an international match, they are my number one supporters. I would say they had one of the biggest influences on my career as without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What is the highlight of your rugby career?
The biggest highlight in my rugby career so far was getting my first cap for Wales (15’s) which was an honourable achievement back in 2015. However, I have also been chosen to play for Wales (7’s) and fell in love with that form of the game going on to get selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia which was amazing.
Tell us about your rugby international debut?
It was against Scotland away in 2015 Six Nations, came off the bench at the age of 16-17 years old loved every minute of it. I have loved sport from such a young age I used to play football, hockey, netball, rugby, gymnastics, swimming and athletics. I did so much sport I had to choose one and rugby was my favourite, so the dream was to continue to work hard to play for my country.
The toughest opponent you faced and why?
I would have to say the toughest opponents faced would have to be New Zealand in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup who were simply a world-class team. A powerful and skilful team they compete at a very competitive level.
Best player you played with and why?
Jasmine Joyce is an outstanding winger who plays for Scarlets and Wales 7’s she was also the only Welsh player to represent Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games. She has great energy and it’s brilliant to have her outside you with the speed she brings to the game, it really does make my job a lot more comfortable during the game.
Best player you have played against and why?
15’s – It would have to be Ireland international Sene Naoupu an outstanding centre she is a very strong attacking player with great feet. Originally from New Zealand she has now represented Ireland in the Six Nations Championship and the 2017 Rugby World Cup.
07’s – New Zealand international Gayle Broughton plays as a utility-back, she has great speed and excellent feet as well as being an outstanding try scorer. Representing the All Black she has won a 2016 Olympic Games (Silver Medal), 2018 Commonwealth Games (Gold Medal) and a 2018 Rugby 7’s Women’s World Cup (Winners Medal).
Best manager you have played for and why?
Rowland Phillips, the current Wales Women’s rugby coach he brings good energy into the camp and has raised the bar in terms of what is expected from the team. He has a vast knowledge of the game having played for Neath (Rugby Union), Workington, Warrington and Great Britain (Rugby League) he has also played for Wales in both forms of the game.
In terms of domestic rugby you are currently playing for Gloucester-Hartpury could you give us a review of how the season has gone?
I haven’t been around Gloucester-Hartpury club squad much this season due to being on international duty. However I do know the squad is doing well in the league this season and are currently in a play-off spot with just two games left against Wasps & Harlequins.
Having played both international rugby 7’s & 15’s which form of the game do you prefer and why?
That’s a tough one, I love both games but I slightly favour the 7s due to the extra fitness and mental toughness that is needed in order to play several games over a 2-3 day period.
Strong finish for Wales in the 2019 Women’s Six Nations could you tell us how you think the tournament went for Wales?
Really pleased with our progression as a team this season we have some young players coming through which is great, however it was also important to keep our experienced players in the mix such as the likes of Caryl Thomas & Elinor Snowsill who bring energy and composure alongside experience to the squad. We had a tough encounter against France and we fought hard but unfortunately lost the game, but the atmosphere out there is unreal for a women’s game.
A draw against a good Italy team was a good result looking back, we were gutted about the disallowed try but we took the positives into the England match. Following on from a tough loss against an experienced England side, we targeted Scotland as a must win game and we were thrilled to get the win in Scotland and then to end on a positive performance and a win against Ireland was one the best feelings ever.
In terms of Wales what area’s do you think the team needs to improve in order to become contenders for winning the Women’s Six Nations and the Women’s Rugby World Cup?
I think we should be approaching professionalism. We need to keep working hard now to get wins under our belts and increase more spectators to follow us. As a non professional team competing against professional sides is obviously physically and mentally difficult. The girls put they’re lives on hold to play for their country, along side full-time work and education, the balancing act makes it difficult sometimes to fit in recovery and sessions in the gym. As a squad we keep building and improving on certain areas within our game, we have a very talented squad now and it would be interesting to see how well we could do if we have further support.
Finally women’s sport is really starting to attract more attention in terms of PR/Media, Sponsorship & Attendance in the UK, how do you think this will benefit the women’s game going forward?
Massively, we had some great crowds at Cardiff Arms Park and would like to thank them for their continuing the support at our home games. The Media has been great over our campaign and we have been televised for most of our matches, this will inspire the next generation of girls to come and support us and to inspire them to play for Wales one day.