Wales rugby captain Siwan Lillicrap announces retirement from international rugby

Siwan Lillicrap broke new ground by becoming one of the first female rugby players in Wales to earn a full-time professional contract. Credit: PA

Wales rugby captain Siwan Lillicrap has retired from international rugby.

The 35-year-old took over the armband in 2019 and was named as squad captain of the recent World Cup, though she only played a limited part in the tournament.

In the time that she led the side, Wales endured a tumultuous 2021 Six Nations Championship, which ended winless and included heavy defeats to France and Ireland.

But Lillicrap also broke new ground by becoming one of the first female rugby players in Wales to earn a full-time professional contract in January this year.

Siwan Lillicrap in action during a Six Nations match against France, April 2022. Credit: PA

That paved the way for the side to enjoy a better Six Nations championship under Lillicrap's leadership and culminated them reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Reflected on her decision, the 51-cap forward said: “I’m well aware that rugby careers don’t last forever and I would never want to give the jersey any less than 100%. It feels the right time to make this decision and step back as an international player ahead of a new Rugby World Cup cycle.

“It’s been a hard decision because the red jersey means so much to me but physically it certainly feels the right time. We all put so much into the last year getting ready for Rugby World Cup and I’m grateful to have had the chance to fulfil my dream as a full-time athlete for the last 10 months.”

'Tough for me personally'

Siwan continued: “It's been a whirlwind six years of international rugby. It was a dream come true to reach cap No 1 at 28 having fought so hard for so long on the fringes of the squad for that opportunity. That was in 2016 and so the 2017 Rugby World Cup was another huge milestone that I thought I wouldn’t get again. 

“It meant the world to be given the captain’s armband in 2019 and that honour was never lost on me. Every single match, even the tough losses mean so much to us as players and that was the case for me. I cherished every moment and I feel proud to have contributed towards the future too and leaving the programme in a better place for the next players to come through.

“Our wins this year are definitely amongst my career highlights – winning away to Ireland and in front of a record crowd against Scotland – along with the double-header against the Barbarians at Principality Stadium in 2019. 

“And this past Rugby World Cup will also live long in the memory. It was tough for me personally, losing my grandad early on. But as a squad we showed we are capable of competing with the best teams in the world which is a huge step forward in our journey. I’m very excited for the future of the programme and I look forward to giving back to it in some way."

Lillicrap will continue to play domestic rugby for club side Gloucester-Hartpury.

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