Rhian Wilkinson: Former Canada international named Wales boss

Rhian Wilkinson
Rhian Wilkinson played in four World Cups and three Olympics for Canada

Wales have appointed former Canada international Rhian Wilkinson as their new manager on a three-year deal.

Wilkinson, 41, who won 183 caps for Canada and two Olympic bronze medals as a player, succeeds Gemma Grainger, who quit Wales to take charge of Norway.

Football Association chief executive Noel Mooney had promised a “worldwide” search for the new women’s boss.

“It’s an incredible honour to be taking on the role of Cymru head coach,” Wilkinson said.

A former England and Team GB assistant coach, Wilkinson led USA’s Portland Thorns to the 2022 National Women’s Soccer League (NSWL) Championship in her first season as head coach.

However, she was investigated by the NWSL and National Women’s Soccer League Player Association (NWSLPA) for an alleged relationship with a Portland player.

Though she was cleared of any wrongdoing after the three-week investigation, Wilkinson resigned from her post in December 2022 citing the fact she had “lost the locker room”.

A letter from the Portland players to NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman sparked the investigation.

Before joining the Thorns, Wilkinson was the head coach for Canada’s under-17 and under-20 teams and was an assistant for England, Team GB at the 2021 Olympics and Canada at the 2019 World Cup.

Wilkinson has a Welsh mother and lived in Wales for 18 months as a child.

The former defender, who retired from playing in 2017, will be in attendance when Wales face Republic of Ireland in a friendly in Dublin on Tuesday, 27 February and says she is excited about succeeding Grainger and helping Wales qualify for a first major tournament.

“The team has gone from strength to strength in the last few years and I aim to build on that with our mission to qualify for next summer’s Euros and beyond,” she said.

“We have a group of players that are ready and deserve to be in major tournaments. I can’t wait to meet them and work with them.

“My mother is Welsh, and I spent part of my childhood growing up in south Wales, so I’m excited to involve myself with the country’s culture and explore that part of my roots even further.”

Wilkinson’s appointment comes after the shock resignation of Grainger in January, with the FAW stating at the time they hoped to have made an appointment before the start of Euro 2025 qualifying in April.

Wales will discover their qualifying opponents on 5 March when the draw is made in Switzerland, host country of Euro 2025.

“I am thrilled to welcome Rhian to the FAW as the women’s national team head coach,” FAW president Steve Williams said.

“After the growth of the team in recent years, we now look forward to seeing that progress even further, as the team aims to put Wales on the world stage with major tournament qualification for the first time.”

FAW chief football officer David Adams, who led the search for Grainger’s successor, says Wilkinson will give Wales the best chance of qualifying for a first major finals, having missed out on a World Cup spot after being beaten in the play-off final in October 2022.

“We undertook a thorough recruitment process for the new head coach, and we were very impressed with the high quality of the candidates,” he said.

“The FAW has made good progress across the women’s game in Wales over recent years and Rhian’s appointment puts us in the best place possible for qualification to next summer’s Euros and the period beyond.

“Qualification for a major tournament would be a turning point for the women’s game across Wales, and we can’t wait to get started.”

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