Keira Bevan v France
Keira Bevan doesn't need any convincing of how far she can go in her career.

But if she did, she wouldn't have far to go to find someone who will tell her that she can make it to the sport’s summit.

Dave Ward, the Welsh scrum-half’s coach at Bristol Bears, is one who is convinced and isn’t shy about telling Bevan so.

In doing so he is helping the 26-year-old - and Wales - establish themselves as the main challengers to England and France at the summit of the Guiness Women’s Six Nations.

"She wants to get better as a rugby player,” Ward tells us. “You often have conversations about how she can be the world's best. She's not there yet, but she wants to be, and her ambition is to get there.”

For Bevan to bridge the gap, Ward identifies putting in the extras once training is over and working on her tactical decisions as key for her to be spoken about among the world’s leading number nines.

Bevan says she enjoys the ‘honest’ nature of their conversations and acknowledges that she has a good understanding of what the former Harlequins hooker expects of her.

"If I'm not performing how I should be and where he thinks I should be, we'll sit down on a Monday or Tuesday and we'll have a really open and honest conversation about it,” Bevan says. “That's really good for me.

"If I have had a bad game, I probably know I'm gonna be told. It’s really good for a player and a coach to be able to have those conversations.”

Fierce Competition

If Bevan is under any further doubt over how much work she must put in, then she only needs to look at the two players eyeing her Bristol number nine shirt – fellow Wales international Meg Davis, and England’s Lucy Burgess – to know that she can’t switch off for a moment.

Bevan and Davis are part of a coterie of Welsh internationals at the Bears, that also feature fullback Jasmine Joyce, number 8 Alisha Butchers and centre Megan Webb.

Before the 2023 Championship Bevan was among 25 players who received Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) full-time contracts.

In September 2023 Davis was part of the seven who were added to the group, shortly before Ioan Cunnigham’s team competed in the inaugural WXV1 in New Zealand.

“I'm not the finished article by any means, so it's really important that Dave pushes me, and I keep learning and growing as well,” Bevan said. “With the competition at Bristol, with Lucy Burgess and Meg Davis, it just keeps pushing me to become better and better.

"I think it's really good because we all get on as well. We challenge each other in the best way possible and we hold each other accountable.”

In 2023 Wales finished third behind Grand Slam winners England, and France. Wins over Ireland, Scotland and Italy meant they booked their place in the top group of WXV in New Zealand.

Expanded Attacking Game

While Wales ended WXV1 with three defeats, to New Zealand, Canada and Australia, Bevan believes that competing among the world’s leading sides will stand them in good stead when the Championship begins in March.

“We fell a little bit short,” Bevan said. “It makes it a pretty tough tournament when you put all that effort in and you don't really come away with anything.

“We reviewed it recently and I think we've taken a lot of learnings, and a lot of points were made and if we can action those situations, I think you'll put us in a pretty good spot.”

Bevan identified discipline as one area that the team need to work on, with the need to avoid backto-back penalties that quickly swing momentum and put the team under pressure.

They will also continue to expand their attacking game and build on the ideas that Shaun Connor has introduced since he was appointed as attacking and kicking coach before the 2023 Six Nations.

Bevan will start the 2024 Six Nations as Wales’s first-choice kicker. The Swansea native ended WXV1 with nine points, after finishing the 2023 tournament with 27 points.

First-Choice Kicker

This season Wales begin at home to Scotland, then have away trips to face England and Ireland before they host France and Italy in their last two fixtures.

“I think third is probably our minimum standard,” Bevan said. “We have quite high expectations of each other now. We have Scotland home first, which is going to be a really tough game. It was quite nip and tuck between us last time and it was quite a fierce game.”

Their match against England at Ashton Gate will be especially memorable for Bevan and the other Bristol players in the Wales squad, as it gives them the chance to play test rugby in their adopted home city.

They began their Premiership Women’s Rugby campaign there with a 48-5 victory over Sale Sharks, so they know what to expect at the stadium, even if they will head to the away, rather than home, dressing room.

“It will be pretty cool,” a smiling Bevan said. “Ashton Gate is a lovely stadium. We were lucky enough to play our first Prem game against Sale Sharks and the Bristol crowd is amazing.

“It will be like a home from home and it's almost like we've got four home games this year.”

Wales close the tournament at home to Italy, a repeat of their final 2023 fixture that they won 36-10 to book their place in WXV1. It will take place in the Principality Stadium, the home of Welsh rugby, rather than next door at Cardiff Arms Park, and Bevan is sure it will be a fitting finale for two teams who have developed a close rivalry in recent seasons.

“It should be really good,” Bevan said. “With Italy it’s quite nip and tuck between us and it could go either way.

“The stadium, I think that's where every Welsh player wants to play. Hopefully, we can get a really good crowd there to support us in what will kick off what is going to be a really good Super Saturday for the women's game.”