Women's Lacrosse World Cup: Record breaker Ros Lloyd Rout to lead Wales

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Why this is the 'biggest women's Lacrosse World Cup ever'
FIL Rathbones Women's Lacrosse World Cup
Venue: Surrey Sport Park Dates: 12-22 July
Coverage: Live video coverage from the quarter-finals onwards on the BBC Sport website and app

It may be a native American sport you're not too familiar with, but a Wales team filled with doctors, dentists and the most capped player in the history of the international game are about to renew rivalries with England at the start of their World Cup.

Lacrosse is big business in the United States with professional leagues and a college system that attracts over 60,000 fans to their annual final, but in Wales the players are all amateurs and the coaches are volunteers.

They will, though, be one of the 25 nations to descend on Surrey on Wednesday for the 10th Women's World Cup, a sport that brands itself as being the "fastest on two feet", played with a ball and sticks with mesh pockets and that at times can be a game not for the faint hearted.

"Wales is one of the smallest lacrosse playing nations," says captain Ros Lloyd Rout, who holds 106 caps for Wales, more than any other player for one nation in history.

"I think we're the second smallest after Latvia.

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"In the USA it's such a huge sport at the domestic level as girls start playing when they're four or five, they play through high school then go onto college and play on scholarships where they're playing day in, day out with professional coaches and it's a huge league out there.

"In the UK, in Wales I think there are only one or two schools that play now and I think five or six universities that play and that's very similar in England.

"It's a growing game but we haven't got anything like the number of players that the US have."

American dominance

Looking at the previous nine tournaments the participation numbers certainly correlate to silverware. The USA have won all but two of the World Cups held since the first in 1982, finishing runners-up to Australia in those other two.

And both of those sides - with the other top-six ranked nations - will be in Wales' pool for the competition along with hosts England, who they meet in the first game, as well as Canada and Scotland.

Wales lacrosse
Wales' best finish at a World Cup is fourth place

All six countries will qualify for the knockout stages regardless, joined by two teams from the other four groups made up of the lower ranked nations, who all then fight for the gold, silver and bronze positions, medals that Wales have yet to claim any of.

"That's how it works and it's actually how it's been for the last few World Cups," says Lloyd Rout.

"It's what it's all about to play the best teams in the world, so for us we're excited that the groups are set up that way and we're looking forward to it.

"We've been working really hard over the last four years. We've been ranked fifth in the world for a long time now and we feel we're ready to compete against those top four teams.

"Obviously to match it [fourth place in 1997] would be great but we're looking to go at least one better, we're looking for a medal at this World Cup.

"We've had some really tight games against England in the last few years, a warm-up game against Canada and we came out on top."

Record breaker

Ros Lloyd Rout
Ros Lloyd Rout says this World Cup will be her last as a player

The Wales squad for the tournament includes a gym owner, a publicist as well as several students, dentists and doctors but the history maker among them remains the biggest draw.

Lloyd Rout is set to play in her fifth World Cup, having won more international caps (106) for a single nation than any player in the history of the sport.

"I started playing at school when I was eleven," she says.

"When I was 16, a girl from my school had just been to Prague to play in the European Championships with the Welsh team and encouraged me to try out.

"Two weeks later I was at the trials in Cardiff and I've never looked back.

"It's nice but for me it's always been about the team and playing with my friends.

"[Reaching 100 caps] it's never been a focus of mine. People started joking about it when I got close to it but I never thought I would get here.

"You never say never but, the legs are getting tired. I've got a two-year-old son and there are a lot of young players coming through, so I'm seeing this as my last World Cup."

Wales lacrosse
Wales' team at the World Cup will include dentists, doctors and several students

As well as juggling her sport with her job as a GP, Lloyd Rout also has to contend with family life as part of the Wales set up - her husband Raj is the assistant coach.

"It's been a tough few years in terms of the commitment that both of us have had to make, although I want to say that I was here first," she jokes.

"We're a small lacrosse playing country and we have to fund everything ourselves so finding volunteers to not only coach but manage and be our physio and fitness trainers is difficult.

"I think it was more than 10 years ago now we were looking for a coach for our development team and I suggested my then boyfriend as a possible person to ask.

"He coached the 'B' team for two or three seasons and then went on to coach the Under-19 Welsh team at the 2011 World Cup and from then he developed such a great relationship with some of those players that it just seemed a natural progression for him to move on to be an assistant coach of the senior team.

"I guess when he first got involved we never imagined that he'd be coaching me but it's worked out that way.

"We try and keep it separate between home life and lacrosse life. Obviously when it comes down to selection he steps out when it's anything to do with me, we always try to make sure it's one head coach with two other assistant coaches who do most of the coaching when it comes down to my place."

'Grudge match'

Wales lacrosse
Wales have twice lost to England in World Cup quarter-finals

For now, there is no talk of life at home or a final World Cup swansong, with Lloyd Rout focusing only on the first game against the old enemy England, who are ranked just one place above them in the rankings and eliminated them in the knockout stages four years ago.

"It's a real grudge match for us," Lloyd Rout says.

"We play them every year as there's a home internationals tournament where you play against them and Scotland, so it's a team we know well, one that we've faced before, we lost by one goal to them back in April so we're looking to turn that around.

"They did beat us in the quarter-finals in the last World Cup and they also beat us in the quarter-finals in 2005 in overtime so those of us who played back then have got that at the back of our minds as well and we're looking to overturn that.

"This is the group stages and we may end up meeting them again later down the tournament but this is a big game for us, there's going to be a big crowd for the opening game of the tournament and we're all very excited."

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