WALES hockey skipper Abi Welsford has spoken of the pride she feels at becoming her country’s most capped player alongside vice-captain Leah Wilkinson.

The pair made their record-breaking 139th international appearances in the EuroHockey Championships II group stage defeat by Belarus on Wednesday.

They will pick up another cap today when Wales face Russia (4.30pm) in the last four of the tournament at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

Victory for Welsford’s charges would not only see the hosts into tomorrow’s final but also guarantee them a seat at European hockey’s top table.

For Usk’s Welsford, joined in the Wales squad by fellow Gwent stars Rose Thomas, Danni Jordan and Sophie Clayton, breaking Anne Ellis’ caps record was “a long time coming”.

A teacher when not playing for her Swansea City Spartans and her country, Welsford made her international debut in 2003.

“I’m really proud to hold the record with Leah,” she said. “Obviously it’s been a long time coming.

“It has taken quite a few years to get there but the both of us are really proud to finally reach that milestone.

“We’ve played most of our games together and it just so happened that we’ve ended up on the same number.

“Anne Ellis was the person who held the record before and she’s such a legend in Welsh hockey, so there’s some pride in passing her total.

“Leah’s a few years younger than me so I think she might hold the record on her own eventually.

“But we were saying that with the number of matches we’ve had in recent years, some of the youngsters are going to overtake the two of us relatively easily.”

When asked what her longevity was down to, she added: “There have been ups and downs but, to some extent, I don’t think I know any other way.

“I went through all the age groups and it has just become a habit, having that regular hobby that I enjoy doing.

“The players are very good to captain and they make my job very easy.”

Wales had already qualified for the semi-finals of the EuroHockey event before going down 4-2 to Belarus.

A 6-1 thrashing of Austria had been followed by a thrilling 1-0 win against Poland thanks to Phoebe Richards’ goal three minutes from the end.

“It was nice to qualify for the semis after two games because it took the pressure off a little bit for the Belarus match,” said Welsford.

“We had hoped to perform a bit better than we did but they were clinical with their chances and scored after we scored, which is always a bit of a blow.

“We’ll learn from it and move on to the semi-finals against Russia.

“We’ve played them once before and they won 2-1, so we’ll be hoping to turn the tables and be the winners this time.

“If you get through the semis you’re guaranteed promotion to the A Division, so that’s the first hurdle, and if we get into the final then who knows what can happen.”

Belarus play Italy in today’s other semi-final.