ON most Sundays you’ll find Newport’s Poppy Soper lacing up for fourth-tier side Plymouth Argyle - but tonight she’s set to face the fifth best women’s football team in the world.

While Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses are a predictable mix of WSL stars, the Wales goalkeeping union boasts some of the UK’s only players to ply their regular trade several tiers below the top flight.

It’s created a special bond between Soper, 19, and starting Wales keeper Laura O’Sullivan, who plays for tier three FA Women’s National League (FA WNL) side Cardiff City Ladies.

Wales, ranked 34th, are undefeated in their last five World Cup qualifiers and are gearing up for their toughest challenge yet in France, who sit atop Group I with a perfect record.

“I’m very excited,” said law student Soper. “It’s going to be a special occasion playing France, obviously one of the best teams in the world, some of the best players, it’s going to be quite surreal to be honest.

“I love being on camp. Being around players that are obviously playing at a higher standard to me, it’s great to learn different perspectives, see how hard everyone works, and obviously that’s where I want to get.

“I want to be playing Championship or WSL, so everyone around me keeps reminding me that I can, I’ve just got to believe in [myself].”

Among Soper’s Wales team-mates are full-time professionals like Chelsea star Sophie Ingle and OL Reign’s Jess Fishlock, who earlier this month was named MVP in America’s top-flight National Women’s Soccer League.

Life looks a little different for the second-year student, who routinely packs textbooks alongside her football boots when national camp comes calling.

She’s found an empathetic mentor and friend in O’Sullivan, 30, who debuted for Wales in 2016.

“We talk pretty much every other day of the week,” said O’Sullivan.

“We’re always wishing each other good luck and asking how each other’s games got on. If one of us is struggling or had a really good game, we’ve always spoke about it.

“Even though I’m experienced and stuff, we just see each other on the same level and Liv [Championship side Coventry United’s Olivia Clark], for such a young age they’ve come along so well.

“They’ve got so much more to come. It’s just really good to see younger generations, and obviously Poppy being in this [team] just shows that obviously you can be in the championship, the WSL, but still be in a lower tier and still perform at those levels.”

O’Sullivan met Ingle at Cardiff when she was Soper’s age, and the Wales captain, now 30, gave her a huge boost of confidence and camaraderie - one she’s keen to replicate with Soper.

“At the time I was so shy, and I did struggle,” she admits.

“It’s intimidating, being in a large group, and I stopped playing for a period of time.

“But I met Soph and she said, ‘I’m playing at Cardiff and you know me now, so she helped me get into the group and open up a little bit more.

“That first game I saw my name on the [Wales] team sheet and I just kind of went, ‘Oh, I’m starting!’ I didn’t know how to react.

“I was just so shocked. It happened so quick. It’s a bit different for a keeper – all eyes are on you at some point and it’s a lot to take in. That was a bit surreal.”

All eyes will be on O’Sullivan again as Wales, who recently played in front of a record-breaking home crowd of 5,455, look to finish the first round of World Cup qualifiers on equal points to their group table-topping French opponents.

“It was unbelievable,” said O’Sullivan. “The atmosphere was crazy.

"You go to the men’s games, whether it’s Premier League or even our men’s national team and you experience the huge crowds, and to actually be on that pitch and have the same recognition and that group following us it’s huge. It’s incredible."

Wales will need to rely on less home support when they travel to Guingamp for tonight's big match where, O’Sullivan insisted, her squad will be more than up for the challenge.

She added: “We’re expecting a lot of good football to be played. We obviously prepare a lot, we look at the opposition, but it’s about what we do best on that day.”

To follow the action visit the FA Women's National League on Twitter @FAWNL and https://fulltime.thefa.com/home/index.html