Wales full-back Kayleigh Powell. Pic: Getty Images.

Kayleigh Powell . . . The Kicker Who Has Gone The Extra Myler For World Cup Lift Off With Wales

By Graham Thomas

Kayleigh Powell plans to get a big kick out of her Rugby World Cup debut – and one of those she will thank is Ospreys star Stephen Myler.

Powell has been named at full-back in the Wales team that start their Pool A campaign against Scotland in Whangarei, New Zealand on Sunday.

It will be the 23-year-old’s first experience of the tournament and an early opportunity to prove her new full-time professional status has yielded reward.

With a Welsh Rugby Union contract signed, Powell has been able to spend far more hours polishing her skills – including a kicking game tutored by the vastly experienced Myler.

“Stephen Myler has been a massive help,” says Powell, one of seven Bristol Bears players in the Wales squad that will face to Scots in a match that takes place in the small hours, but will be re-run later in full on S4C.

Kicking out of hand has never been a strong point for Wales and may well be one skill across the whole of the women’s game that has plenty of scope for improvement.

But the time spent on a detailed breakdown of the technicalities with Myler has certainly pleased Powell.

Wales’ Kayleigh Powell. Pic: Getty Images.

“It is the biggest change I have seen in my skillset since working with Stephen,” she says. “Just having that one session a week with him, the details we can look at has been a huge help.

“I know it sounds easy, but it’s just understanding how to kick a ball, the set-up positions and angles – they are the micro details that really help.

“Everything has really just clicked for me lately to be honest, and it has been invaluable having Stephen with us.”

Like the other full-timers in the Wales squad, Powell is only nine months into her new life as a full-time professional athlete – someone who no longer has to squeeze training into the gap between working for a living and eating then sleeping.

The early impact of the full-timers was dramatic as Wales beat Ireland in the TikTok Six Nations and backed it up by overcoming the Scots.

The drama stalled after that, with three defeats, but the overall improvements in preparation means Wales will be favourites to beat Scotland again.

 

“It has made such a difference,” says Powell who played football and cricket as well as rugby, growing up in Llantrisant.

“I was talking to some of the backs earlier and we were just saying that we have never been so prepared for a game. We have never had so much time to look at the analysis or being able to focus on recovery, so it has been great.

“I was part time in January, I was coaching at the Ospreys in the community, but it was very difficult to balance that with professional rugby.

“I had to fit five days of work into three, so it was a stressful time. But I would have done anything to be here.

“Thankfully, now I have plenty of time to prepare, the stress has gone and I can focus on being the best I can be on the pitch representing my country.”

Scotland will not be short of motivation, either, given that this World Cup is structured around three pools of four teams.

Only four from 12 teams are dumped after the group stages, so whoever wins between Wales and the Scots has a great change of making the quarter-finals, even though Australia and New Zealand are also in Pool A.

 

With that in mind, Wales coach Ioan Cunningham has stressed to his players the need to switch on immediately – both collectively and as individuals.

“To ‘breath fire’ is one of the images Ioan is using at the moment,” adds Powell.

“For me, how I breath fire is that when I cover the backfield, I need to be alert and positive from the moment I touch the ball.

“We are all aware the first game is a mini-final for us, we know we have to win it.

“We need to start the tournament well and we want to show intent straight away in the games. Hopefully, then we can keep it up for the full 60/80 minutes to get the win and take that confidence into the rest of the tournament.”

Powell thought she might make the last World Cup as a 19-year-old, but injuries put paid to that idea and have troubled her since to the extent that she has been restricted to 11 caps over three seasons.

“I don’t know what it will feel like, but I imagine it will be very emotional. I thought I was going to make the last World Cup, but I missed out, so it has been an even longer journey to get to this point.

“I have had a lot of injuries in the last year, it has been a tough period for me personally. This World Cup has fortunately come at the right time, if it had been this time last year I would have been injured, so I am incredibly grateful that I am here.

“It is going to be a surreal experience and it will definitely be emotional when the anthem plays. My family will be watching at home, so it is a very proud moment.”

 

S4C – Sunday, October 9: 5.15pm.

Cwpan Rygbi’r Byd 2021 – Wales v Scotland.

All 80 minutes of Wales’ opening match of the Rugby World Cup, played earlier in the day at Okara Park, Whangarei, New Zealand.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.