Hayley Ladd column: Milestone time for special Wales team-mates

Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli At your place: Friday, 8 April Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Two Wales and the BBC Sport website, full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and live text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Manchester United midfielder Hayley Ladd looks ahead to Wales ‘World Cup qualifiers and discusses her team-mates Helen Ward and Natasha Harding who are set to join Wales’ exclusive 100-cap club.

We are of course fully focused on the task at hand – tough qualifiers against France and Kazakhstan, two very different tests – but it is impossible not to pay special attention on this camp to two special team-mates.

Helen Ward, our record scorer, and Natasha Harding, one of our most important players, are both on the verge of reaching 100 caps for Wales, which is an incredible achievement.

Helen needs one more appearance and Tash needs two, so hopefully they can reach their milestones during what is another important camp for us.

Helen Ward and Natasha Harding
Helen Ward and Natasha Harding both made their Wales debuts in 2008

Illustrious company

I have to start by talking about Helen and Tash because they are joining an exclusive club. Only six people have represented Wales 100 times – it is a big honor and a big achievement.

It is so pleasing they are potentially getting their 100th cap, it shows they have maintained their quality over such a long period of time.

They are such key players for us and they are so key for us off the field as well as team-mates.

Hels is the mother of the group, she is your mate, she is your mum, she’s just a great person to have around the group.

She shows great leadership qualities and she makes really good decisions for the group. You certainly know you can rely on her of hers.

Tash is like she comes across on camera! She’s full of personality and she lights up a camp, she brings that energy every day and it is so nice to have those qualities in the squad.

The commitment Helen has shown, having two kids and then coming back and playing for us at the level she has as a key member of the squad, it shows her desire and professionalism.

Tash continues to deliver really great performances for us, she’s a really key part of what we do.

It is such a small group that 100-cap club, it really shows what an accolade it is and what a special person and player you have to be to get to that milestone.

Different challenges

We had a really good preparation in the Pinatar Cup, three really good, competitive friendlies, so hopefully they will stand us in good stead for two very different qualification games.

I had a little hamstring issue that restricted my involvement in Spain, but I am feeling good now and have a few Manchester United games under my belt, so I know I am fully recovered.

There is a great buzz around Welsh football after the men beat Austria and we want to continue that. We feel these are exciting times for both squads and both have their eyes set on qualifying for the World Cup.

We now prepare for two vital qualifiers and obviously two different challenges.

France we played recently and that game, a 2-0 defeat where we played very well, is still fresh in our minds.

We know how we want to improve. We were pleased with our performance but know there are areas we can improve on.

We are excited to get another chance and to play them in Wales at Parc y Scarlets because we feel we have shown we can compete with top teams.

We take a lot from how we played in France. It was a good performance, but one we can improve upon.

Then we fly out to Kazakhstan and that is a different challenge. We need to show different qualities where we are likely to have a lot of the ball and impact the game by dominating possession and hopefully scoring some goals as well.

We are developing our style under Gemma Grainger, our manager, and there is a strong belief within our group.

Our focus is on qualifying for major tournaments and we just need to keep on improving.

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