You would have thought that Kate Williams would be the one to declare the day she made her Wales debut as the best of her life, but it was in fact her dad, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.
Proud Welshman Gareth had flown from Auckland where he lives and Kate grew up to surprise his daughter as she earnt her first cap in Wales’ 31-5 over Ireland in the opening round of the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
Williams, who was born in Swansea before moving to New Zealand aged four, came off the bench to cap a remarkable journey that has taken her from North Harbour to Cardiff Arms Park with a little help from her mum’s mates.
“My Wales journey began at the start of last year,” the 22-year-old said. “I was just talking to my mum telling her how I had played for a few years with North Harbour and nothing was really coming from it and it would be amazing if I could play rugby back home, back in Wales.
“She got on her Facebook Messenger group with her mates from back home and one of them got in contact with Ioan [Cunningham], the head coach.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 25, 2023
“He sorted a Zoom call out for me back in February and then said if I was around in July I should come over and join in the pre-season.
“And once I came over he said ‘we’ll keep you on the books for the Rugby World Cup because you will be over there if anything happens’, and something did happen, I joined them in New Zealand in October.
“Rugby is my favourite thing to do, and I just committed, I came over here in January and have been training with them ever since.
“I wasn’t expecting to make the Welsh squad this year, let alone have my first cap, so I am just taking anything that has come my way as a positive and I am loving my journey so far.”
Six Nations Rugby, the official organising body responsible for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, broke all fan engagement records in 2022 and highlighted its commitment to giving the women’s game the best possible platform to grow.
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 27, 2023
The 2023 edition of the Championship stands to build on this progress, with even bigger crowds expected, more international broadcasters covering all the action and unprecedented social and digital promotion for the heroes of the women’s game.
Williams was called into Wales’ Rugby World Cup squad ahead of their game against hosts New Zealand but did not make the final 23.
And after making her debut on Saturday, she was joined in her post-match press conference by her dad who had arrived in Wales before Williams had even been named in the matchday squad and will spend the next three weeks following his daughter around as the fairy tale continues.
Gareth said: “It’s probably the best day of my life.
“I’m going to be here for three weeks, hopefully, a trip to Scotland next week is on the cards. It is a moment I couldn’t miss, but she has done all the hard work.”
Williams replaced Bethan Lewis at flanker in the 56th minute with Wales having already sewn up the bonus point.
She arrived in Wales in January having put her career as an officer with the New Zealand Navy on hold, taking a year’s unpaid leave.
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 25, 2023
Her support network is truly international, with her former colleagues sending messages from the ship she used to work on which is currently stationed in Fiji.
And despite growing up in rugby-mad New Zealand, Williams insisted it was always going to be Wales.
She added: “We grew up Welsh, even living in New Zealand we were always supporting Wales.
“I had a Welsh jersey growing up and my grandpa always made sure I had the latest Ospreys jersey as well.
“This feels so right to be able to do this.
“I’m going to give this my biggest crack; I want to play rugby here for as long as possible.
“If my career is just this year, it is just this year, but I want it to be 10 years and see how far it can get me.
“I love playing rugby and love playing rugby in Wales.”
For all the latest TikTok Women’s Six Nations news, information, and details on how to watch the Championship, visit: https://womens.sixnationsrugby.com/