Wales will have 25 professional players at their disposal in this year’s Women’s Six Nations after handing out 24 full-time deals for 2023.
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) issued 12 full-time contracts in 2022, the first year of the programme.
The union has now doubled that tally, while Carys Williams-Morris will also be with the squad full-time thanks to her elite athlete status with the RAF.
The value of the contracts has not been disclosed.
However, WRU acting chief executive Nigel Walker says finances have increased.
“I don’t have a number, but the top contracts are of greater value than those we issued last year,” he said.
Walker said the WRU had worked closely with their counterparts around the United Kingdom on the maternity clause in the contracts.
“The investment we put into the national programme last year paid clear dividends both on the field in terms of performances and results, and off it in terms of the all-round athlete development service provided within the programme,” Walker added.
“It’s important we don’t stand still and we believe the enhanced investment in the programme this year will go some way not only to developing these players, but others who join the squad for training and tournaments.”
Wales take on Ireland in their Six Nations opener on 25 March, and will be looking to build on last season’s third-place finish – their best in the competition since 2009 – as well as their run to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Of the 12 players that first signed professional contracts last year, 10 remain, with Jasmine Joyce leaving the set-up to rejoin the World Sevens Series and former captain Siwan Lillicrap retiring from international duty.
A further 12 players signed part-time deals last year, the majority of whom have now become full-time, including promising young talents such as Sisilia Tuipulotu and Lleucu George.
Experienced number eight Sioned Harries and prop Cara Hope have not signed contracts due to work commitments, but will remain part of the set-up.
Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham said the contracts were a reflection of the commitment, performance and professionalism shown by the players last year.
“The initial contracts enabled us to make significant improvement throughout the year,” he said.
“Our aim this year will be to continue to build on the improvements we made in 2022. We’ve made progress but we are very aware that all the other nations are also developing with contracts and full-time programmes so it’s vital to keep moving forward.”
Wales’ full-time players: Abbie Fleming, Cerys Hale, Kerin Lake, Lleucu George, Lowri Norkett, Megan Webb, Niamh Terry, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Alex Callender, Bethan Lewis, Georgia Evans, Gwenllian Pyrs, Keira Bevan, Kelsey Jones, Natalia John, Elinor Snowsill, Alisha Butchers, Carys Phillips, Donna Rose, Ffion Lewis, Gwen Crabb, Hannah Jones, Lisa Neumann, Robyn Wilkins, Carys Williams-Morris.