SEVENS star Jasmine Joyce is set for her Wales return after being given a professional contract ahead of the WXV tournament in New Zealand.

The Welsh Rugby Union have confirmed a new batch of seven full-time deals ahead of October’s inaugural tier one competition, which will pit Ioan Cunningham’s side against the hosts, Canada and Australia.

Joyce hasn’t played the 15-a-side format since last year’s World Cup but has signed a new hybrid contract with Team GB along with Kayleigh Powell for WXV and the Six Nations.

Full back Courtney Keight, wing Carys Williams-Morris, centre Hannah Bluck, scrum half Megan Davies, prop Abbey Constable and back rowers Kate Williams and Bryonie King are added to the squad, taking Wales up to 32 professional players.

Western Telegraph: Wales boss Ioan CunninghamWales boss Ioan Cunningham

Cunningham, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer these players these contracts and it is a significant investment into our programme and demonstrates the value the WRU sees in women’s rugby.

“This is the start of our third season as a professional squad and we have already seen the benefits with our performances in the recent Six Nations with qualification for Tier One of the WXV, where we will play the best teams in the world in New Zealand.

“All of the players have bought into what it takes to be an elite athlete and the Welsh public have shown they appreciate all the hard work and where we are heading as a squad with record and sell-out crowds in Cardiff last season.

“To be able to have more professionals full-time means we get more coaching time and will build our strength-in-depth and competition in the squad and that can only make us a better team.

“Competition for places always drives standards in every squad and we have already reaped the benefits of that over the last two seasons with our performances on the field. We know we cannot afford to stand still.

“We have seen other nations increase their number of full-time contracted players and we cannot underestimate how big an impact it is to have players totally focused on being an elite athlete. It drives performance and competition.”

Wales will face the USA in Colwyn Bay on Saturday, September 30 (kick-off 2.30pm) in preparation for their WXV opener against Canada on Saturday, October 21 in Wellington.