Wales skipper Siwan Lillicrap emphasised that there is still a long way to go for her side despite having the chance to record their most successful TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign since 2009.
Wales kick off Super Saturday when they play host to Italy at Cardiff Arms Park this weekend, and a win would make it three from five for the Dragons, a feat they have not managed for over a decade.
But the 34-year-old, who was one of 12 players handed professional deals by the WRU at the start of the year, revealed that she was “bitterly disappointed” with her team’s performances in the 33-5 defeat to France and 58-5 loss to England and has called on an influx of investment from unions to help develop the game across the board.
Lillicrap said: “The reality is that England and France are a fair few years ahead of us in professionalism and it will take time to close that gap.
“We were bitterly disappointed with our result against France because we never want to lose, but on reflection it’s a lot smaller scoreline than the last few years and it was 7-5 after 30 minutes so if we can better that first 30 then it’s a much tighter contest.
“Our performances have enhanced loads from the investment that we’ve had.
“I think 12 months ago we would not have been close to that scoreline but that’s due to the investment from the WRU and the belief in us as players and giving us to the tools to be able to go out there and perform better, recover better and take strides forward.
“But we’re not satisfied with that performance.
“We know that we still have a long way to go and a lot of hard work to be done, so hopefully more unions will invest in their women’s players and programmes for the game to keep developing.”
Having made an emphatic start to the campaign with narrow wins over Ireland and Scotland, the Wales squad are eager to take away some valuable lessons from their last two defeats, particularly focusing on flying out the blocks at the start of the game against Italy
Lillicrap added: “We have learnt a lot of lessons as a squad as well in not starting as well as we would like.
“You find yourself on the back foot defending and that’s hard, but we’ve learnt so much and we have to put that into practice and hopefully this squad will be able to start well.”
Ioan Cunningham has made eight personnel changes and two positional switches for their match with Italy, Lillicrap herself moving forward into the second row from her usual position at No.8 with Kelsey Jones, Cara Hope and Niamh Terry making all their first starts of the Championship.
The Wales captain believes the team changes are tailored to finishing the campaign on a high while handing some well-deserved starts to those that have impressed off the bench in recent weeks.
Lillicrap said: “[The changes are] no surprise really, I think it’s just a reflection on how well the squad have trained and what our impact off the bench has been in previous games and they deserve opportunities.
“I think it is also a sign of the strength and depth this squad has now maybe compared to previous years, which is brilliant. Girls are putting their hands up and training well throughout the campaign which is testament to how well individuals have trained.
“Competition is healthy and being able to make those changes will help us put in a big performance and be proud again.”