FULLBACK Lisa Neumann will make her first start for Wales at Donnybrook this Sunday (Feb 25) (15:00) in Round Three of the Women’s Six Nations.
The 23-year-old from Pembrokeshire is the only new player in the starting line-up to face Ireland. Meanwhile, loosehead prop Cara Hope could win her first international cap from the bench.
“Lisa has been pushing hard for a place in the starting team and she deserves her opportunity this Sunday,” said Phillips, who has enjoyed the benefit of having former Wales international Gareth Wyatt coaching the backs since the start of the tournament. “We have a lot of talented back-three players in the squad, so we think Lisa will slot in well alongside Hannah Bluck and Jess Kavanagh-Williams – two players who pose threats from the wing.”
Phillips recently spoke about his team not being burdened by an “emotional hangover” from the result at the Twickenham Stoop, and insists that preparations for Ireland have been geared towards one thing. “We need to show that we’re improving in the areas that we’ve been working on this year,” said Phillips. “This will be a game between two very evenly-matched teams, and coming off the back of the last match we’re very keen to give a good account of ourselves.”
The last time both teams met in competition was during the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August – a game Wales won by 10 points at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. However, Phillips says that result won’t count for much come Sunday in Donnybrook, particularly after Ireland’s winning performance in a pre-Women’s Six Nations friendly with Wales in Ystrad Mynach earlier this year.
“Ireland were competing for a Grand Slam going into the final game of the competition last year, so we know how much of a strong team they are. The World Cup was a bit of an anomaly for them, so they’ve had a point to prove since then.
“They’ve got a lot of new personnel across the board, but the team is settled and experienced. It’s up for us to show what we’re about as a team. We’ll certainly be prepared for a hugely competitive match in front of a boisterous Irish crowd this Sunday.”
Wales Women team to face Ireland:
15 Lisa Neumann (Scarlets)
14 Hannah Bluck (Cardiff Blues)
13 Kerin Lake (Ospreys)
12 Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons)
11 Jess Kavanagh-Williams (RGC)
10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)
9 Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues)
1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets)
2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys)
3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)
4 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)
6 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets)
7 Beth Lewis (Scarlets)
8 Sioned Harries (Scarlets)
16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)
17 Cara Hope (Ospreys)*
18 Meg York (Dragons)
19 Natalia John (Ospreys)
20 Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets)
21 Jade Knight (Scarlets)
22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)
23 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)
Twins warm up with fine victories
CRYMYCH boxing twins Ioan and Garan Croft warmed up for the forthcoming Welsh championships with fine victories in a Wales Select v England Select tournament at the Hampshire Court Hotel, Basingstoke.
Southpaw Ioan overcame weight issues to win on a split decision against Scott Melvin, an opponent 18 months his senior, in a 56kg contest.
Garan also won on a split against Donte Dixon, a strong opponent almost two years older than his Cardigan ABC rival after boxing him from long range for much of their encounter.
Promising Fishguard schoolboy boxer Mikey O’Sullivan also registered another impressive win recently.
Pitted against Evan Williams (Cwmavon Hornets) at the Pengry Road Social club, Loughor, the Cardigan ABC boxer came out flying, almost overwhelming his opponent and giving him a standing eight count in the first and second rounds.
Williams managed to regroup in the last round, but O’Sullivan had already done enough to win by a unanimous decision.
Joyce named in sevens squad for Commonwealths
ST Davids’ Jasmine Joyce has been named in the women’s sevens squad that will represent Team Wales in next month’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Five of the 12-player squad are currently involved in Wales’ Women’s Six Nations campaign: Alisha Butchers, Sioned Harries, Hannah Jones, Jaz Joyce (all Scarlets), and Elinor Snowsill (Dragons). The ‘One Programme’ approach taken by Wales Women has allowed certain players to spend time in both sevens and 15s camps this season.
Head coach Nick Wakley has the benefit of a number of leaders in his squad: the experienced Philippa Tuttiett, captain of Cardiff Blues; two members of the Armed Forces in Army Rugby Union captain Gemma Rowland and the RAF’s Sian Williams (both Dragons); and Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys), who won the most recent of her 46 caps in last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup,
Powell-Hughes is one of a quartet of players with over 40 caps to their name, along with Butchers, Harries and Snowsill, for what is women’s sevens’ first appearance in the Games in its 88-year existence.
Other sevens specialists selected include Sinead Breeze and Laurie Harries, with Kayleigh Powell (Ospreys) the youngest in the side at 18 years of age.
The sevens will be held at the 27,500-capacity Robina Stadium from 13th-15th April. Team Wales have been drawn in a competitive Pool B with Australia, Fiji and England.
The Wales Women squad acquainted themselves with the conditions on the Gold Coast by participating in Brisbane’s Super 7s competition in early February. Before that, they were in action in Dubai’s invitational competition in December.
Nick Wakley, Women’s Sevens head coach, said: “We’re very excited and honoured to be representing Team Wales next month. In regards to the ‘One Programme’ approach through the Women’s Six Nations campaign, Commonwealth Games and World Series Qualifier prep, we have had our players exposed to international rugby week in, week out.
“We have been building up to these tournaments for two years and we have developed a real mental toughness which will be tested in the two weeks post-Six Nations to get us back up to speed. It is a real credit to all of the players’ commitment and dedication that they find themselves in these huge global tournaments which could go a long way towards sculpting the environment for the next generation of Welsh women rugby players.”
Helen Phillips, Chair of the Commonwealth Games Wales Board, said: “Congratulations to all the players who have made it to the final squad for Gold Coast. It’s excellent to have such a strong Team Wales squad heading to Australia for what will be the first time ever women’s rugby sevens tournament in the history of the Commonwealth Games.”
She added: “Women’s rugby in Wales has seen a huge growth over the past few years, and we congratulate the WRU for all the development work that’s been done to put the Welsh squad in such a strong position to qualify for Gold Coast 2018.”
Prior to travelling to the Gold Coast, the same squad will compete in the Hong Kong Sevens (6th-8th April) as Wales Women seek to qualify for next year’s World Rugby Sevens Series.
Team Wales Women’s Sevens: Alisha Butchers; Elinor Snowsill; Gemma Rowland; Hannah Jones; Jasmine Joyce; Kayleigh Powell; Laurie Harries; Philippa Tuttiett (c); Shona Powell-Hughes; Sian Williams; Sinead Breeze; Sioned Harries.
Joyce stars as Wales beaten by Italy
WALES’ Women were beaten by Italy on Sunday (Mar 11), in front of a crowd of just over 11,000 fans at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring as Isabella Locatelli ran over for the try which Beatrice Rigoni converted.
St Davids’ own Jaz Joyce was back in the fold having been with the Wales 7s team out in Australia but she showed no signs of jetlag as she made a bursting run to put the home side in a good position.
Hannah Jones also went on a good run and after she was brought down, Italy were guilty of an infringement and Robyn Wilkins sent the resulting penalty through the posts to reduce the gap.
Another good move involving Alisha Butchers, Elinor Snowsill, Wilkins and Kerin Lake came to an end as Italy defended well.
Butchers then passed to Lake who juggled the ball, doing well to keep hold of it, before passing to Jones who was held up just before the line. They kept at it and it was Butchers who made her way over to put the home side into the lead. Wilkins then sent the conversion wide but Wales led 8-7.
Joyce then picked the ball up inside the Wales 22 and beat two players and was only halted by the third just past the half way line.
Italy won the ball back and Manuela Furlan found Maria Magatti who made her way over for their second try to put them back in front. Rigoni’s kick looked to be going over but it fell just short of the posts and that was the end of the first half.
Ten minutes into the second half the Italians increased their lead as Rigoni went over for a try in the corner but she couldn’t add the conversion and the visitors held an 8-17 lead.
Just past the hour mark Butchers was given a yellow card for a tip tackle but much to their credit, they did not concede any points during that period.
Joyce again showed what she could do with another powerful run but she was brought down. Alecs Donovan also made a good burst through before winning a penalty for her side.
Wales were forced to bring Joyce off for a head injury assessment and fellow Pembrokeshire woman Lisa Neumann was brought on in her place.
With seven minutes to go Wales finally made the breakthrough as Sioned Harries picked up the ball and touched down in the right corner and Wilkins added the extras to bring Wales to within two points of Italy.
Italy hit back and put the pressure on as they kicked to into the 22 before the ball bounced out. Wales looked to play out of their own 22 but dropped the ball only to win it back again moments later.
However, Harries was then given a yellow card meaning her match was over and Wales would finish with 14 women on the field.
Thankfully for Wales, Joyce was ok and she was brought back onto the field for the remaining minutes.
With three minutes to go Italy worked the ball out wide and Michela Sillari made her way over for the try despite the best efforts of Joyce to stop her. Sillari then sent the conversion wide and Italy led 22-15 with little time left to play.
Wales were unable to find a way back despite their best efforts but they did earn a losing bonus point for being within one score.
Defeat for Wales is their third of the season while Italy celebrated their first win in nine Six Nations matches.
Wales may be fifth in the table but they could still have a say in who wins the title in the final round of fixtures.
On Friday (Mar 16), Wales take on leaders France knowing that a win could open the door for England to win the title, should they beat Ireland on the same day.
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