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Ex-CanWNT defender Wilkinson named Wales manager

Rhian Wilkinson Thorns Rhian Wilkinson - Portland Thorns

Rhian Wilkinson is returning to international football.

The one-time stalwart Canada defender has been named manager of Wales on a three-year deal.

Wilkinson, 48, spent 18 months in Wales as a child and was born to a Welsh mother. She succeeds Gemma Grainger, who left her post to take the Norway job.

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

A native of Pointe-Claire, Que., Wilkinson was capped 181 times by Canada from 2003 to 2017, winning a pair of bronze medals at the Summer Olympics.

After her retirement, Wilkinson got into coaching and served as an assistant coach with England under Emma Hayes before becoming head coach of the Portland Thorns in 2022. Wilkinson led the Thorns to a National Women's Soccer League championship in her first season, but she resigned from the job in December of that year after a three-week investigation by the league and the players' association into an alleged relationship with a Thorns player. While she was cleared of wrongdoing, she acknowledged that she had "lost the locker room."

Wales has never qualified for a Euro or World Cup in its history.