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Mental strength key for Wales

Experienced Wales back Naomi Thomas says that mental toughness will be a key part of her side's chances at success in the upcoming Women's Rugby World Cup.

By Emily Ryall

As any sports psychologist will tell you, winning in sport is about developing a winning mentality, and Wales Naomi Thomas maintains this is exactly what her side are doing.

Last weekends training game non-capped wn over Ireland provided Wales with a further opportunity to develop team cohesion and mental resilience which was vital as that was one of the primary reasons of playing the pre-tournament game.

Preparation games are important for us before we go into the World cup as it not only gives us an indication of our current levels of performance but also helps to increase our mental toughness which you cant get just from training alone.

Indeed, Thomas believes that such mental tenacity was called upon both at the beginning and at the end of the match

We knew the game against Ireland was not going to be a walk in the park as Ireland have improved considerably over the past few years but when they scored within the first 3 or so minutes, it was a real wake up call. After that, we came together and looked really strong in both defence and attack

Although Wales were able to go in at half time with a lead followingIreland came out of the dressing room firing and came at Wales all guns blazing.

Thomas, however Wales always remained composed and focused.

"Although there were only a few minutes left on the clock, we knew that we could bring the game back to us. We never had any doubt we would win." Such composure led to an eventual penalty to gave Wales a much needed victory and a further psychological boost prior to the World Cup.

This type of dogged self belief gives athletes the edge over opponents when it matters and is currently high in the Welsh camp. Thomas, who won her 50th cap earlier this year, is well poised to give on an overview on the mood in the Welsh squad ahead of the World Cup. As one of the most experienced players in the squad, she is also one of the most gifted and can play a range of positions in the Welsh backline.

The morale amongst the squad is really good," she said.

"We are all excited for the World Cup and desperately want to show what we can do. Were definitely not just turning up to make the numbers, were there to cause some upsets and with New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in our pool, we believe we can do that.

And seeing as Wales know that it was only last year they dashed Englands dreams of a 6 Nations grand slam, as well as the knowledge that New Zealand havent had the opportunity of similar warm up games, there is always the real possibility that such self-belief may indeed enable them to overcome one of the tournaments favourites.

Picture thanks to Huw Evans/WRU