Profit and loss as Welsh women's rugby plans for a brighter future

By Illtud DafyddBBC Wales Sport
Wales women v England
Wales were outpaced and outmuscled by England's women in Cardiff
Women's Six Nations: Scotland v Wales
Venue: Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld Date: Friday, 24 February Kick-off: 18:25 GMT
Coverage: Live on the BBC Sport website and updates on BBC Radio Wales

Wales' match against England in the Women's Six Nations was a bittersweet experience for the people running the game in Wales.

On the one hand a crowd of more than 4,000 at Cardiff Arms Park yielded a profit on a Wales women's home for the first time.

But the 63-0 scoreline in favour of England underlined that in spite of the strides made off the field there remains a chasm in playing terms between the very best and the rest.

So what's next for the women's game in Wales?

And how can they bridge the playing gap between the full-time professionals of England and the amateurs with jobs who wear the red shirts?

The administrator's view

Wales women's team manager Caroline Spanton says despite the heavy defeat to England, playing all home games at Cardiff Arms Park has been an important development.

In previous seasons Wales have played home matches at various stadiums around the country.

Caroline Spanton
Caroline Spanton has been Wales' national women's rugby manager since October 2014

"In terms of everything else around that day and that event it was hugely successful," she said.

"First of all it was to get the girls playing in a stadium of the right quality and of an international footing. That was a huge milestone in terms of Wales' women being represented in quality stadia.

"[It was] hugely positive. Playing in the Arms Park was not a decision that happened overnight.

"That has been a good 18 months in the making to make sure could do that" Spanton added.

The coach's view

The squad is coached by former Wales men's defence coach Rowland Phillips who made 10 appearances for Wales in the back row.

He saw a positive aspect to the defeat by an England team made up of either fully or semi-professional athletes.

England Women's rugby team
England are the reigning Women's world champions

"I think the main thing now is that I've got 23 players who have experienced absolute top level rugby and that is going to be invaluable going forward," he said.

"What we can do now is to try and close that gap".

A player's view

Olympian Jasmine Joyce makes her debut in the full-form of the sport against Scotland on Friday night after appearing for Team GB's seven a side team at the 2016 Rio Games.

Student Joyce says it is challenging at times for the women in red to handle rugby and life commitments.

"We have teachers, personal trainers, it is hard work and a lot of girls find it hard to fit in a gym sessions in or running but we all fit it in somewhere and that is what makes us our team," she said.

"It is hard work."

The future

Spanton says the team's immediate focus is not success on the field during the current season.

"We are looking and planning for the future so we are not talking about the next year or 18 months," she said.

"We know this is a long term plan.

"Rowland said this is not about the Six Nations for 2017 or necessarily the World Cup in 2017 it is about the next four years and the next eight years and he is committed to that.

"On the performance front our aspirations are to get on the [World Rugby Sevens] World Series for our sevens programme, to achieve success at the Commonwealth Games in the longer term and also to medal at the World Cup

"My role is to champion and lobby for the women's game and it is to champion and make sure these athletes get better support.

Jasmine Joyce and Rowland Phillips
Jasmine Joyce played sevens at the Rio Olympics while head coach Rowland Phillips has held coaching roles with Ospreys and London Welsh

"I will not stop until I make sure we are getting it and looking after these players and I do have the backing of the Union for that".

Joyce says any women's player from would jump at the chance to become a professional.

In the build-up to Rio she spent a year playing and preparing full-time as a sevens player so understands the benefits of not having to juggle a job or studies with playing.

"As a player anyone would dream of a being a professional rugby player and that is the route we all want to go down," she said.

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