By Megan Armitage
Wales front row Caryl Thomas bid an emotional farewell to rugby following her side's 36-10 triumph against Italy in the final round of the 2023 TikTok Women's Six Nations.
Thomas re-joined her team in Parma just two weeks after her wife gave birth to their daughter and helped seal Wales' best place finish in the Championship for 14 years.
In a career that has spanned 17 years, the 37-year-old won 65 caps for her country, and she closed the doors on her international career the same way she started it, coming off the bench against Italy for her swan song.
"I'm a bit sad that I'm leaving in some ways because I want to keep going, but my body says no," she said. "A couple of girls had bets on me for how many times I would cry, but actually I've just had gratitude.
"It's been amazing to be able to retire on your own terms, and to get a win and a performance like that is huge and shows how much we're progressing."
Wales stormed to a third-place finish in the 2023 TikTok Women's Six Nations, picking up their first victory over Italy in six years in Round 5.
🗣️ With a TikTok Player of the Match display in the bag, this is what @AlexCallender3 had to say after @WelshRugbyUnion secured third place with victory in Parma.#TikTokW6N #SuperSaturday⚡️ #ITAWAL pic.twitter.com/FoncgGGNFD
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) April 29, 2023
Bethan Lewis, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Sioned Harries, Alex Callender and Kerin Lake all crossed for Wales as Keira Bevan's boot added the extras.
Star prop Tuipulotu and the Wales forward pack has been one of the most talked about aspects of the Championship this year, leaving Thomas thrilled with the prospect that Wales will only continue to rise up the ranks following her retirement.
"That's what you want, you want to leave the shirt in a better place and have people pushing on," she said.
"Gwenny P [Gwenllian Pyrs] Kelsey [Jones], Carys Phillips, Cerys Hale, Sisi [Sisilia Tuipulotu], they are a little bomb squad, it's so exciting.
"If we can get our front row carrying and getting that go forward, it allows the space for the backs to do what they want.
"I am so chuffed for them, they are amazing players and I'm excited for their future."
Victory over Italy cemented the first time since 2009 that Wales have won three matches in the Championship.
Player of the Match Callender was overjoyed by her team's performance in Parma and wasted no time in looking ahead to their next target: the World XV.
"We made it hard work but we stuck to our process throughout the whole 80 minutes," said Callender.
"I couldn't be proud of the girls, we wanted to take their legs away as soon as we came out, that is exactly what we did.
"The World XV is a testament and will test us as a team, we want to be playing against the best teams in the world that is how we are going to get better if we challenge ourselves against the top teams like England France and New Zealand: I'm so excited for that challenge."
For all the latest TikTok Women's Six Nations news, information, and details on how to watch the Championship, visit: https://womens.sixnationsrugby.com/