Wales have named a squad with an exciting mix of experience and youth for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in Dublin on Wednesday, August 9.
Hooker Carys Phillips will continue to lead from the front as captain, in what is arguably the most challenging pool of the competition. Wales will face New Zealand, Canada – second and third seeds respectively – and Hong Kong over the course of eight days.
“There’s a tremendous amount of excitement within the squad for those pool games,” said Wales head coach Rowland Phillips. “There’s a real enthusiasm amongst the team about facing two of the top nations in the game, because you play international rugby in order to compete against the best.”
Warm-up matches against Japan, Spain and England have given Wales confidence heading into the biggest edition of the tournament to date, with Phillips highlighting: “The improvement in performance over those three fixtures is a reflection of the hard work that the players have put in to improve key areas of our game.”
While several of Wales’ players have featured in the previous two Women’s Rugby World Cups, Phillips insists that was not a deciding factor in their selection. “Having experience amongst the squad is valuable, but more important is the fact that our selections are based on merit,” he said.
“We started with a squad of 50, which had to be whittled down to 28, so there’s inevitably going to be disappointment for some players. Our job as coaches is to make sure that we’ve made the right decisions.”
Elen Evans, Sioned Harries, Shona Powell-Hughes, Elinor Snowsill (pictured above) and Rachel Taylor are some of those set to feature in their third Women’s Rugby World Cup. In contrast, 17-year-old back rower Lleucu George could be in line to gain her first full cap for Wales.
“Lleucu’s inclusion highlights the value of our warm-up matches,” commented Phillips, who admits selection was also determined with an eye on the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup. “She was outstanding in the game against Japan, and showed some natural qualities that we are trying to develop.
“We’ve given new players opportunities over the past few weeks, and she’s one who’s grasped them with both hands. Physically, she’s more than capable enough to deal with the rigours of international rugby, which is impressive for someone so young, but we’ll be smart with how we manage her.”
Phillips has emphasised the need for his team to start their games well – something they will aim to achieve on the opening day of the tournament when they take on former champions New Zealand at UCD’s Billings Park.
WRWC 2017 Fixtures:
Pool A –
New Zealand v Wales, Billings Park, UCD, 2.45pm, Wednesday, August 9
Canada v Wales, Billings Park, UCD, 5pm, Sunday, August 13
Wales v Hong Kong, UCD Bowl, 5.15pm, Thursday, August 17
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.
WALES WRWC 2017 Squad – Backs (12): Keira Bevan (Ospreys), Elen Evans (Scarlets), Jodie Evans (Scarlets), Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons), Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Sian Moore (Dragons), Jess Kavanagh-Williams (Scarlets), Gemma Rowland (Dragons), Elinor Snowsill (Dragons), Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys).
Forwards (16): Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Lleucu George (Scarlets) *, Cerys Hale (Dragons), Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Morfudd Ifans (Scarlets), Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Carys Phillips (Ospreys) (capt), Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys), Gwenllian Pyrs (Scarlets), Rebecca Rowe (Dragons), Rachel Taylor (Scarlets), Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Megan York (Dragons).
* Denotes uncapped player