Her brother played for Slovenia, now she is set to represent Wales

Gloucester-Hartpury lock Liliana Podpadec 

Date of birth 30 August 1999 Born Somerset Position Lock Club Gloucester-Hartpury Country Wales

When did you first play rugby?

I was 14 or 15, at Winscombe in Somerset. My brother, Lewis, played there from when he was younger and he went on to play for Slovenia (where their father’s family is from). Then a girls’ team got set up. My dad was very keen for me to play.

Who was your childhood hero in rugby? 

Growing up, my brother. He was playing rugby the whole time and we’d watch him every weekend. Then there were Wales players like Justin Tipuric, who is just phenomenal.

You were the only uncapped player to be awarded a full-time contract by Wales this summer. How’s it been?

It’s an amazing opportunity. I was shocked when I was offered the contract, I wasn’t expecting it at all.

To come here five days a week as opposed to being sat in an office all day, and to be able to give my all to rugby, is such a great opportunity. I was police staff and really enjoyed my job with the police, but being able to do rugby full-time is great.

The last few weeks have been really tough, but it’s been great to see the progress made from the first week to now. Fitness is definitely something I can work on, and strength and power, building up my numbers in the gym.

How have you found the squad environment? 

Natalia John has taken me under her wing. Working with Natalia, Gwen Crabb and the other second-rows, who have a lot more experience… It’s been great to take on what they’re saying and the advice they have to give.

You always have that voice saying, ‘Do you deserve to be there? Why have you been chosen uncapped?’ Hopefully the coaches see something in me.

What are your strengths? 

To learn, to take on board advice and critique to improve my game.

And physical attributes?

The girls say my power. My counter-movement jumps are quite good and that leads into lineout jumps.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

My first coach, Gareth Waterfield. He got me into rugby at Winscombe, then county and regionally in Wales. I wouldn’t have had any of those opportunities if that girls’ section hadn’t been set up.

RW Verdict: Podpadec was in the Wales squad last year and then, after leading Llandaff North to a Premiership title, she landed a full-time deal. She took an extended period of leave from her South Wales Police role to train with Wales over the summer and while she missed out on World Cup selection she is sure to be in the international mix going forward.

This article originally appeared in Rugby World magazine’s October 2022 edition.

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