Full-time contracts have been awarded to a dozen of Wales’ leading female players by the Welsh Rugby Union.
The group includes Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap and Great Britain Olympics sevens star Jasmine Joyce.
The 12-month deals, a first for the women’s game in Wales, came into force this week.
WRU performance director Nigel Walker said: “The historic awarding of 12 full-time contracts will enable all these players to be full-time professionals and have regular, weekly contact with head coach Ioan Cunningham, the rest of the coaches and our expert science and medical team.
“All of this will make a significant difference to the players’ preparation, fitness and skill-sets in order to enable us to challenge the best teams in the world.”
And coach Cunningham added: “It has been a tough but enjoyable process.
“Credit to all the players who have given us selection headaches.
“We clearly have short and medium-term goals in terms of the Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup, but we also have an eye on developing the best players for the future of Welsh rugby.
“Overall, we have gone for the players we feel could make the biggest gains at this time, not forgetting the contribution the players who receive retainer contracts will also make to the programme.”