NEWPORT'S Cerys Hale has joined the Welsh Rugby Union's performance programme after being one of nine players to earn a semi-professional contract.

The 28-year-old prop, who plays her club rugby for Gloucester-Hartpury and works in education, has won 35 caps since her 2016 debut.

She is joined by fellow forwards Gwen Crabb, Georgia Evans, Kat Evans, Abbie Flemming and Bethan Lewis plus backs Kerin Lake, Caitlin Lewis and Niamh Terry in signing retainer deals.

They will train alongside the 12 full-time players between one and three days a week at the National Centre of Excellence.


Cerys Hale on the charge for Wales

Cerys Hale on the charge for Wales


"These players are a vital addition to our performance programme," said head coach Ioan Cunningham.

"Some of them were very close to being offered full-time contracts, and all made a huge contribution to our autumn campaign, both on the pitch and in the training environment so are all deserving of this chance.

"Ultimately, the retainer contracts provide an opportunity to have more contact time with more players which will be a huge positive.

"It gives the players the ability to learn more about the game, to complete more training sessions, improve their strength and fitness along with other areas that will contribute towards the team's performance.

"We feel we have the right model in the interests of our programme while enabling players on retainer contracts to meet their work commitments. It's an opportunity for players to develop individually while challenging each other."

It was announced last week that full-time contracts had been signed by captain Siwan Lillicrap and her fellow forwards Alisha Butchers, Natalia John, Carys Phillips, Gwenllian Pyrs and Donna Rose plus backs Keira Bevan, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Ffion Lewis, Lisa Neumann and Elinor Snowsill.

Wales still have enough money in the pot for another batch of retainer deals with Cunningham dangling the carrot in front of hopefuls in World Cup year.

"There are two training camps in the next few weeks, so the opportunity is certainly there for other players to impress and earn a retainer contract," said the former Scarlets coach.

"There are players we want to see in our environment and these camps will enable us to do that."

Wales Women retainer contracts: Gwen Crabb (Gloucester-Hartpury), Georgia Evans (Saracens), Kat Evans (Saracens), Cerys Hale (Gloucester-Hartpury), Abbie Fleming (Exeter Chiefs), Kerin Lake (Gloucester-Hartpury), Bethan Lewis (Gloucester-Hartpury), Caitlin Lewis (Exeter Chiefs), Niamh Terry (Exeter Chiefs)