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WXV: Kate Williams relishing return to New Zealand with Wales

Kate Williams and Bethan Lewis high five
Kate Williams (left) made her debut in Wales' 31-5 Six Nations victory over Ireland in March

As Wales prepare for a new global tournament in New Zealand, there is one member of the squad who cannot contain her excitement at the prospect of heading back to the land of the long white cloud.

The 12,000-mile trip will be a trip back home for Swansea-born Kiwi Kate Williams, who this week became one of Wales' seven new professional players.

Williams first trained with Ioan Cunningham's side last summer and was well placed in Auckland to be called up as injury cover during last year's Rugby World Cup.

Having got a taste for international rugby, Williams made the difficult decision to leave friends, family and her New Zealand naval career to move back to Wales.

It was a move that paid off as she won five caps during the 2023 Six Nations, and she now counts herself as one of Wales' 32 full-time players.

"I didn't think this is how it would go this year," the 23-year-old told BBC Sport Wales.

"Coming over at the start of the year I have proven that I want to be committed to this team and have been rewarded for my efforts in training. I'm really excited to see what we can do next.

"It's so cool to be named a professional but also treated as a professional."

Williams says it has been a testing 12 months and has "definitely missed home", but was lucky in that her parents came over to see her win her first cap.

"Dad always thought I was going to make it in rugby somewhere but was especially proud that I made it here in Wales," she said.

"It's also been nice to reconnect with the rest of my family who I only ever saw when they came over to visit or when I came back, my grandparents and my uncle."

As for making new friends, Williams joked: "I've got 31 right here every day [in camp]."

Williams will be hoping to make Cunningham's squad for the new WXV tournament starting in October.

Wales qualified for the top tier of the competition and will face Canada in Wellington and Australia in Auckland and, in between those two matches, an encounter with the hosts and world champions in Dunedin.

Williams says Wales will have plenty of support against the Black Ferns as "everyone loves an underdog".

"We're putting out a really good product and obviously they're the best in the world at the moment, so I think it will be a really good match," she said.

"We've played New Zealand twice in the last year and have made improvements each time we've played. I don't think they're going to underestimate us at all.

"We've proved we can play with the big boys, play with France, play with England, for considerable amounts of time.

"We just need to believe in ourselves."

Williams has fond memories of watching past meetings of Wales and New Zealand.

"I remember when the girls were playing in the quarter-finals last year and I got to be on the sideline," she said.

"Hearing both national anthems, it was really cool.

"I'll be singing the Welsh one obviously, I'm really happy to be doing that as well. It means a lot."