It’s set to be a proud weekend for Cardiff Blues’ Robyn Wilkins, as she prepares to hit a half century of international caps when Wales take on Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.
The playmaker will hit the significant milestone at the home of her club, Cardiff Arms Park, with Warren Abraham’s side looking to bounce back from an opening round defeat against France.
She lines up at full back, with four of her Cardiff Blues team-mates also named in the matchday squad, including scrum half Megan Davies, who picked up her first cap in Vannes last week.
Wilkins has refused to look back since making her international debut against Italy in 2014, and while the global pandemic caused a slight delay until the half century, she is determined to put the icing on the cake with a victory on Saturday.
“When I won my first cap, Catrin Edwards was also winning her 50th and I would look at someone like that in awe,” reflected the Wales international.
“So as an 18 year old, you saw that 50 caps as being a long way off but one of the things I would say is that it’s flown by.
“I don’t know where the time has gone from the first to the 50th but it’s something that I’m really proud of.
“As you get closer to the 50 cap mark, it then becomes more and more of a goal to target and try to achieve.
“I love playing at Cardiff Arms Park, so it’s nice that this game has turned out to be a home fixture for me.
“It would’ve been nice if there was a crowd there, so family and friends could be there, but I’m sure they’ll be watching at home and there’s already talks of a celebration party when time allows.
“In terms of highlights, the first cap is always going to be special, and I’ve played in two World Cups in that time as well.
“Beating France was another special game which I really enjoyed, as was beating Ireland in the 2017 Rugby World Cup.
“There are games that stand out from a personal point of view, where things have gone well or the result has been good.
“But more than anything, it’s been a privilege every time I’ve represented Wales and worn that jersey.
“The big thing for me is about the game this weekend going well. I want to ensure I do my job for the team.
“It’s nice to get the 50th, but it’s always about what you do in the jersey rather than the number of times you wear it.
“Once Saturday’s game is out of the way, we’ve still got another game this campaign and a World Cup around the corner, albeit a bit further than initially planned.
“I just want to keep improving and keep striving for more games in the jersey.”
Wilkins, alongside team-mates Megan Webb, Paige Randall and Manon Johnes, was a part of Cardiff Blues’ Unstoppables campaign launch earlier this season, which launched the partnerships of the women’s programme with Route Media, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Land Rover and Renishaw.
The 26 year old didn’t hide her side’s disappointment at the defeat in France, but believes they can carry confidence from previous victories over their Irish counterparts into Saturday’s encounter.
Wilkins added: “We were really disappointed with how the game went on the weekend. We’d been really excited to showcase what we’d been working on in training but that didn’t come to the forefront.
“We’ve got another chance now this weekend to show what we’ve been working on and what we’re capable of.
“The most disappointing thing on Saturday was that we didn’t show, as a team, what we’re capable of but that’s the beauty of sports. We have another opportunity this Saturday to go again.
“If you look at past results, it’s always been evenly contested against Ireland. We beat them in the autumn of 2019, but they beat us in the Six Nations last year.
“If you look at the previous Six Nations, when we played at the Arms Park, we won with a really good performance on that day.
“So we know it’s going to be competitive and we need to minimise our mistakes and be brave with how we play.
“We’ve spoken about being brave and not being afraid to try things, and Warren really pushes us in training to have a go.
“So hopefully we’ll see some of that attacking flair and bravery that we’ve been working on coming out on Saturday.”
Wales are in the early stages of their journey under a new coaching team, with Abrahams having taken over at the helm in November.
With the Rugby World Cup delayed due to the pandemic, Wilkins is confident her side can make take advantage of their delay to continue to develop and work on their identity, as she takes on a leadership role in a player-led environment.
“It definitely gives the coaching set-up more time because now they’ll have 18 months rather than six months,” explained Wilkins.
“As players it allows us more consistency because the last year has been a bit turbulent so there are definitely positives to the World Cup being delayed.
“At first it was heart-breaking, because that’s what you’ve been working towards and set your goals towards.
“But if you flip it to look at the positive, then there are definitely some that have come from the situation.
“I was looking at Meg Davies on the weekend, winning her first cap as a teenager, and that was once me, which doesn’t feel that long ago.
“But naturally I’ve taken on more of a leadership role as I’m one of the more experienced players on the pitch now and Warren has really pushed a player-led environment.
“That means that I’ll take on a role where I feed back on our kicking game strategy to the rest of the group.
“Warren has given us those leadership roles but in terms of training, how I prepare for games and nutrition, you naturally become a leader for younger girls and I’d like to think I’m doing alright with that.”