Wales Women’s head coach Ioan Cunningham’s squad had 24 full-time professionals for the recent Six Nations campaign and finished third and are ranked sixth in the world rankings.
Full back Courtney Keight, centre Hannah Bluck, wing Carys Williams-Morris, prop Abbey Constable, back rowers Kate Williams and Bryonie King and scrum half Megan Davies are the additions to the squad.
Backs Jasmine Joyce and Kayleigh Powell will return to the Wales senior squad on a new hybrid contract in a partnership deal with GB Sevens for the forthcoming WXV tournament and 2024 Six Nations campaign.
Wales will now have 32 full-time professionals for the 2023/24 campaign.
Double Olympian Joyce, who has won 31 Wales caps, will return to the national side for the first time since the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand.
Wing Carys Williams-Morris, who has RAF Elite athlete status, is now on a full-time WRU contract in partnership with the RAF.
Williams, King and Constable all made their Wales debuts in the recent Six Nations campaign.
Bluck, who has won eight Wales caps, and three-times capped scrum-half Davies will join the professional ranks. (Keight and Powell will not feature in the WXV due to injury.)
Wales recorded a 36-10 victory over Italy in Parma in their last game in the Six Nations to cap their best campaign for 14 years.
Cunningham’s side will face USA at Stadiwm CSM in Colwyn Bay on Saturday, September 30th (KO: 2:30pm.)
Wales WXV Fixtures:
· Canada v Wales, Saturday, October 21st, Sky Stadium, Wellington (KO: 4pm local time)
· New Zealand v Wales, Saturday, 28th, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin (KO: 4pm local time)
· Australia v Wales, Friday, November 3rd, Go Media Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland (KO: 7pm local time)
Cunningham, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer these players these contracts and it is a significant investment into our programme and demonstrates the value the WRU sees in women’s rugby.
“This is the start of our third season as a professional squad and we have already seen the benefits with our performances in the recent Six Nations with qualification for Tier 1 of the WXV, where we will play the best teams in the world in New Zealand.
“All of the players have bought into what it takes to be an elite athlete and the Welsh public have shown they appreciate all the hard work and where we are heading as a squad with record and sell-out crowds in Cardiff last season.
“To be able to have more professionals full-time means we get more coaching time and will build our strength-in-depth and competition in the squad and that can only make us a better team.
“Competition for places always drives standards in every squad and we have already reaped the benefits of that over the last two seasons with our performances on the field. We know we cannot afford to stand still.
“We have seen other nations increase their number of full-time contracted players and we cannot underestimate how big an impact it is to have players totally focused on being an elite athlete. It drives performance and competition.”
Interim WRU CEO ,Nigel Walker, said: “This is a significant investment in this Wales squad, and we know the team cannot stand still and faces an exciting but major challenge in the WXV.
“The players have demonstrated with their performances in the recent Six Nations the value of these contracts with their performances on the field and how they have benefited from being elite athletes.
“Ioan, his coaches and staff have built a professional environment with a great culture and the players have bought into what it takes to be a professional rugby player and are clearly relishing it and delivering performances on the field.
“We all appreciated how Ioan and his players caught the public’s imagination last season and the prospect of measuring themselves against the best teams in the world in New Zealand is a mouth-watering prospect in October.”