Wales Women: Ioan Cunningham and Geraint Lewis appointed interim coaches

Wales Women
Wales have qualified for the World Cup in New Zealand next year

Wales Women will have another interim coaching team in charge for their autumn series against Japan, South Africa and Canada.

Ioan Cunningham and Geraint Lewis will lead Wales following Warren Abrahams’ departure as head coach in July.

Former Scarlets attack coach Richard Whiffin will assist them, while World Rugby coaching intern Sophie Spence remains in the set up.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) is seeking a permanent team boss.

Wales have endured a troubled time with the women’s senior side having not won a game in two years.

In November 2020, the WRU named ex-USA Women’s assistant sevens coach Abrahams as head coach and former Wales captain Rachel Taylor as full-time women’s national skills coach.

Taylor resigned before the Six Nations in March while Abrahams left by mutual consent four months later after defeats by Scotland, Ireland and France.

Nigel Walker has officially started as WRU performance director and is charged with improving the women’s game ahead of the rearranged 2022 World Cup in New Zealand 12 months away.

“The women’s performance programme is one of my top priorities at present as I look forward to getting stuck into this exciting role,” he said.

“The search has begun for a new Wales Women head coach, but we are also confident we have the right team to support the players this autumn as they start to build towards next autumn’s rearranged Rugby World Cup.”

The interim coaching team led a three-day training camp last weekend with a wider player group that will be narrowed down to a final autumn squad next week.

The three matches will be staged at the Arms Park in Cardiff which will be the home ground for the season. Wales face Japan on 7 November, South Africa on 13 November and Canada eight days later.

Former Scarlets head coach Cunningham joins Lewis as a full-time WRU performance coach after leading Wales Under-20s in the 2021 Six Nations.

“I’m excited to come on board on a full-time basis and work with our female Welsh talent,” said Cunningham.

“Last weekend was excellent, we’ve put some foundations in place for the autumn which is just around the corner and with next year’s Women’s Six Nations and Rugby World Cup in mind.

“We have been pleased with the performances of Welsh players in the Allianz Premier 15s.

“The players are testing each other week after week in high-intensity games so that when they play Test rugby they can deliver at a high level. Competition drives standards and that’s what we want.”

Lewis has been involved with the Wales Under-18s and Under-20s and has stepped into the women’s set-up previously alongside Chris Horsman for the 2020 Six Nations.

“It’s always a privilege to be involved with any international team and adding coaches who are vastly experienced in professional rugby is already raising standards at training,” added Lewis.

“We’ve seen improvement already and our autumn opposition will test us in many different areas which is exactly what we want at this point in time.

“We are looking forward to returning to Cardiff Arms Park and welcoming crowds back to our matches. Hopefully we can give them something to cheer over the next couple of months.”

‘We want to show what we can do’

Siwan Lillicrap
Siwan Lillicrap plays in the back-row for Bristol Bears Women

Siwan Lillicrap will remain as captain and said: “As players, it’s been good to be back together.

“We set some baseline standards on the weekend for the next 12 months and we are embracing what this coaching team is bringing to the group.

“We have a good blend of autumn games to be excited about. They will challenge us and provide good preparation for the year ahead.

“It will be great to welcome supporters back to home games at the Arms Park.

“Many of our players have been making their presence known for their clubs recently and we want to show what we can do in front of a Welsh crowd.”

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