Wales Women have completed a punishing month of pre-season training ahead of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
The squad has been training on a full-time basis since July 1 with 31 players on WRU contracts since the start of the month and other players also playing a full part in the programme.
Head coach Ioan Cunningham paid credit to the way the players have stepped up to the plate.
He said, “Credit to the girls, they have really bought into what we asked of them thoughout the month. We pushed them hard with the aim of making them feel uncomfortable in sessions in order to overcome obstacles they will face in the next few months. We wanted to stress them to prepare them for what will be in store in New Zealand but we are pleased with the way they’ve responded.”
The programme has included an emphasis on different forms of fitness work from running to gym work and wrestling techniques – and generally taking players out of their comfort zones.
Cunnungham added, “Fitness is massive for us. We want to pride ourselves on our fitness and we want to be a team that’s known for a level of intensity in the way we play.
“We’ve seen some personal bests in the gym and in terms of high speed metres which are rewarded, but we also know that the players are coping better with the increased running volume, and some of the unseen work is pleasing too.”
Along with putting the hard work in on the field and in the gym, the players have been challenged to adapt to change.
“We are going to be away from home for an extended period, we are going to need to adapt to challenges, so we wanted to test the squad out in various ways so we’ve been off site for a number of team challenges and we’ve kept them on their toes on a day to day basis. We’ve also heard from some brilliant guest speakers who have performed at the highest level in their own sports. The players have a week off now and then we will focus more on preparing for our matches against Canada (Halifax, August 27) and England (Bristol, Sep 14), while still staying on top of our fitness.”
From a playing perspective, Carys Phillips believes she’s in the shape of her life and is thriving on the full-time environment.
She said, “It’s been so good to be back together this month. The additional contracts means everyone can train during the daytime so we can get a lot more done.
“Training has been been tough! This last week was labelled hell week and it certainly lived up to its name but we are seeing the benefits each week.
“From my perspective, I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in. I’ve still got improvements to make but I’ve lost 7kg, my shape has changed, I’m hitting some PBs and I’m certainly moving in the right direction.
“It’s a change of mindset. We have great support now, we’re pushing ourselves harder than we’ve pushed ourselves before and I’m thriving on it. As a squad too, the girls have been pushing each other throughout the month. It’s not about getting there first, it’s about getting there together.
“This world cup is massive for me. It’s a big one being in New Zealand. I’ve been through some personal challenges but I’m in a great place at the moment, I’m really happy with where I am personally.”