Sport

Women’s Six Nations squad named

WALES WOMEN have today announced their 32-player squad for the upcoming Women’s Six Nations.

Head coach Rowland Phillips finalised his selection after yesterday’s victory against Ireland at Donnybrook – a result which means Wales Women have now won four from four since Phillips took charge in 2016.

Phillips says that cutting down a squad of approximately 50 players was a difficult task. “It’s always tough when it comes to selections, because everybody has been working so hard over the past few months,” he said. “There were plenty of tough calls, but I’m confident of the process we went through to get to this point.”

Included in the squad are players recently identified in the regional programme, such as forwards Morfudd Ifans, Brea Leung and Gwenllian Pyrs, whilst players returning to the set-up after a short break include centre Rebecca de Filippo and front row Lowri Harries.

Since the autumn, Wales Women have recorded wins against Scotland, the UK Armed Forces, Spain and Ireland. Whilst he is pleased with the results on the scoreboard, Phillips insists that he and his assistant coaches, Nick Wakely and Paul Young, have been focused on improving the team’s overall performance.

“We’re fully aware of what the past four games have been about,” says Phillips. “The results are an added bonus. The real thing for us was for the players to understand the physicality and intensity of top teams, and they certainly experienced it yesterday against Ireland.”

Ireland, ranked fifth in the world, gave Wales Women plenty to think about, according to Phillips: “They are a quality side, with a lot of very good players. The first 25 minutes or so we were completely under the cosh. But what evolved after that was that we got to terms with the intensity, and by the end of the game we were comfortably playing at that level.”

Now Phillips wants his squad to focus on the next challenge – ‘with feet firmly on the ground’ – with Wales set to face Italy away first up in the Women’s Six Nations. Supporters can then look forward to two huge home matches at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park against England (February 11) and Ireland (March 11) – something Phillips expects to be a fantastic occasion in the capital.

“Those two home games are significant for us as far as standard of opposition goes,” he said. “We’re hosting the world champions and Ireland, who showed us yesterday what a threat they are across the park. It’s going to be a huge competition for us, and we saw throughout the autumn how big a difference the home support made.”

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Dayne Stone

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