Kelsey Jones poses

Wales Portraits - 2021 Rugby World Cup. Pic: Getty Images.

Kelsey Jones Insists Wales Can Gatecrash Into Six Nations Elite

By Hannah Blackwell

Kelsey Jones is refusing to settle for the best of the rest tag as she sets her sights on a TikTok Women’s Six Nations to remember with Wales.

The hooker, who will start in the No.2 jersey against Ireland in the 2023 curtain-raiser on Saturday, is among the 25 players now on a full-time WRU contract having been part of the latest cohort to earn a deal earlier this month.

The on-field impact will be seen in the coming weeks but one thing already beyond doubt is the boost the move has given Wales’ preparations for this campaign, with Jones eagerly awaiting the big kick-off as her side look to build on a third-placed finish 12 months ago.

“The build-up has been awesome,” Jones said. “Being able to be in full-time has really raised our intensity in training and we are training to a higher level than we ever have before.

“The more time we spend together, the more we build as a squad. Before, without full-time contracts, we had to train in the evenings – now we are able to train through the day as part of our working job.

“Another aspect that’s huge is the recovery side. We have our days in, then have a couple of hours to recover, then you can do your analysis and get to bed at a good time.

“We feel ready for this weekend and super excited to get on the pitch.

“We are aiming for that top three but why not top spot? I am a very competitive player and I’m in the sport because I want to win.”

Wales go into this weekend’s opener looking to replicate last year’s strong start, when a late Hannah Jones try clinched a dramatic 27-19 victory at the RDS Arena.

The centre is now captaining the side following the retirement of Siwan Lillicrap and her namesake praised the new skipper for ensuring a smooth transition.

“We are building such a close group and we have a lot of natural leaders,” she said.

“Hannah is a great leader in her own respect, she leads with her actions and words, but we have other girls who speak well and lead by example on the pitch.

“It hasn’t changed the dynamic and it has been great to see Hannah take on more of that leadership role. We just keep on building, which is what we want to do year in, year out.”

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Ireland, like Wales, have been boosted by the award of a raft of professional contracts in the build-up to this year’s Championship as the chasing pack look to pose a threat to powerhouses England and France.

Jones is relishing the challenge that awaits this weekend and knows they will be facing a team determined to right the wrongs of this time last year.

“Ireland will be coming out wanting revenge and we’ve spoken about what they might bring,” she said.

“But as a Welsh squad, we are focusing on ourselves and how we can keep our foot on the gas to get another win this year.

“With more teams and players becoming professional, that should close the gap and I think we will see some shocks.

“Ourselves and Ireland are in similar positions and it’s a great opportunity for both teams this weekend. It will be a really good encounter.”

Wales: 15 Courtney Keight, 14 Lisa Neumann, 13 Hannah Jones (c), 12 Kerin Lake, 11 Carys Williams-Morris, 10 Elinor Snowsill, 9 Keira
Bevan; 1 Gwenllian Pyrs, 2 Kelsey Jones, 3 Sisilia Tuipulotu, 4 Abbie Fleming, 5 Gwen Crabb, 6 Georgia Evans, 7 Alex Callender, 8 Bethan Lewis

Replacements: 16 Kat Evans, 17 Caryl Thomas, 18 Cerys Hale, 19 Kate Williams, 20 Sioned Harries, 21 Ffion Lewis, 22 Lleucu George, 23 Hannah Bluck

Ireland: 15. Meabh Deely, 14. Aoife Doyle, 13. Aoife Dalton, 12. Enya Breen, 11. Natasja Behan, 10. Nicole Cronin, 9. Molly Scuffil-McCabe; 1. Sadhbh McGrath, 2. Neve Jones, 3. Linda Djougang, 4. Nichola Fryday (c), 5. Sam Monaghan, 6. Dorothy Wall, 7. Maeve Og O’Leary, 8. Brittany Hogan

Replacements: 16 Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, 17. Niamh O’Dowd, 18. Christy Haney, 19. Jo Brown, 20. Grace Moore, 21. Hannah O’Connor, 22. Dannah O’Brien, 23. Vicky Irwin.

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