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Lillicrap’s joy at nurturing the future of Welsh rugby

Lillicrap’s joy at nurturing the future of Welsh rugby

Lillicrap’s joy at nurturing the future of Welsh rugby

Former Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap has spent no time looking to the past and reflecting on her career, instead putting her sole focus on the future.

The 35-year-old forward hung up her boots in November last year and has since joined the Wales Women Under-18s set up as forwards coach.

The lock, who also featured in the back row, represented Wales 51 times having taken up rugby aged 17 and is now hoping to guide players at similar ages through to the senior side.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes, they are a great age group, a great bunch of girls and I find it really rewarding to be able to share some of my knowledge and experience with these girls,” Lillicrap said.

“I’m grateful to be part of a team and for them to allow me to be part of their journey. I find that really, really special.

“I got a bit emotional last weekend. I was talking to them and showing some clips of the national squad who played Ireland in the first Women’s Six Nations game, and I was like, ‘ultimately, I want you to be in their spot.’

“That is the gold standard, best practice and I got goosebumps in that moment. I was like, ‘That’s what I want.’

“I just want these girls to succeed and to give them the tools so they can go on to that next level.

“They’re showing that every day when they turn up to training and especially in games, so I find myself very fortunate that I get this opportunity.”

Lillicrap was on hand to help Wales to one win and one loss on the opening day of the Six Nations Under-18s Women’s Festival at Wellington College last Friday.

Wales battled to a 10-0 defeat to England in a 35-minute game, showing a marked improvement on the 48-5 loss they suffered against the same opponent in a 70-minute encounter six weeks previously.

The Welsh youngsters then defeated Scotland 17-7 and will face Italy and France in two more 35-minute games on Tuesday before squaring off against Ireland in a 70-minute match on Saturday.

For Lillicrap, who made her Wales debut in her late twenties, the opportunities the new generation are getting are mind-blowing, but she is quick to add that they are exactly what they deserve.

She added: “I had my first cap at the age of 28 and there were no under 18s, I missed the under 20s, which was completely gone from the pathway.

“There was nothing like this, there was no regional age-grade stuff, and there was no Under-18s festival.

“This is massive, it’s the second year of it, but you can see the growth in the girls and the players, the quality of games, but also the opportunity for them to play in a festival is huge.

“I just want it to go from strength to strength. I want to say these guys are fortunate but they’re not, this is absolutely what should happen and I’m just grateful that stuff like this is now available to us.”