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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Wales

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Wales

Rowland Phillips has admitted his Wales Women’s side did not fulfill their potential during his first Six Nations campaign as head coach. They finished second-from-bottom but, with a strong spell of summer training behind them, he is gelling together a promising squad which could trouble some of the World Cup heavyweights.

WALES

Head Coach: Rowland Phillips
Team Captain: Carys Phillips
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1991 (Plate quarter-finalists), 1994 (Fourth), 1998 (Eleventh), 2002 (Tenth), 2010 (Ninth), 2014 (Eighth)
Current World Ranking: 10th

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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

Play-Offs –

Semi-Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Tuesday, August 22
Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Saturday, August 26

Best WRWC Moment: Just four years after their debut at international level, Wales hosted the first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991. It remains a proud milestone for the game in the Principality, but their best WRWC achievement on the pitch came when they finished fourth at the 1994 tournament in Scotland.

The Welsh side of ’94 topped their pool with wins over Canada (11-5) and Kazakhstan (29-5) and overcame the host nation, 8-0, at the quarter-final stage. The USA and France proved too strong in the latter rounds, but it was still a year to remember for Wales. 1994 saw the creation of the Welsh Women’s Rugby Union, which quickly became affiliated to the Welsh Rugby Union.

Soundbites: Rowland Phillips – “It’s been a tough process to select this squad, we started off with 50 players after the Six Nations and we learnt a lot from that tournament. There have been challenges to select the squad because there have been three separate groups playing at different times.

“It’s been a real intense process to get to whee we are and it took a long time to finalise the selection. But the mix we have of experienced girls who have been to World Cups before and the young kids is a nice blend to have for this tournament. We’re confident we have got it right.

“Our first game up is New Zealand and when you play them, a lot of people just think about how much you will lose by. When I played against New Zealand we were pretty much beaten before we got started but this time around we need to go out and show belief.

“Against England (in the Six Nations) we found out that we can really step it up when needed and we can challenge anyone on our day. This squad is totally different to the one we had in the Six Nations, we just need to be more clinical when we get the chances.”

Hannah Jones – “I’m really excited. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in a Women’s World Cup and I’m just excited to get out there and perform on a global stage. Preparations have been great, we’ve just played England in a warm-up match and we’ve proved that we’ve got the physicality and mental toughness to play against good teams.

“It’s high intensity rugby preparing us for the World Cup. We’ve got to try and beat two of the world’s beat teams in our pool (New Zealand and Canada), so it’s about making a statement that Welsh Women’s rugby can play at the high intensity that other teams can play at.”

Did You Know?: Current Wales Women’s captain Carys Phillips (pictured above) is a daughter of head coach Rowland, the ex-Ospreys and Wales men’s defence coach. Rowland was appointed as a full-time head coach of the Wales Women last July. The former Welsh international back rower, who has also coached Aironi and London Welsh, said at the time: “Carys’ involvement has enabled me to keep a closer eye on Women’s rugby over a number of years. I’ve obviously watched her play from a young age as any parent would.

“But more recently I’ve watched a lot of club, regional and international rugby which has opened my eyes to the talent available and I’m excited by what I see.”

Team Profile: ‘If you want to be the best, you’ve got play against the best’. That is the mantra that Wales Women’s captain Carys Phillips is preaching to her team-mates as they prepare to face the might of four-time champions New Zealand and 2014 runners-up Canada in Pool A.

The Welsh have two of the world’s top three teams in their pool – the Black Ferns are currently ranked second and Canada third – and WRWC newcomers Hong Kong complete the foursome. Hooker Phillips, who is one of the tournament’s youngest skippers at 24, says there is an infectious enthusiasm in camp as they await their departure for Dublin.

“For me personally, it’s my second World Cup and I’m looking forward to it as much as the first one. I really can’t wait to get out there and show what we’re about,” said the 30-times capped front rower. “We’re fortunate enough to have two of the best teams in the world in our group, but I honestly believe that with the girls that we’ve got going out, if we put in the right performances the results with follow.

“It’s the World Cup, it’s an amazing stage to play on. To play alongside your best friends as well, it doesn’t get any better than that. I’m really, really looking forward to getting on that plane now, and I know the girls are as well…prepping ready for the first game (against New Zealand) on the 9th.”

Rowland Phillips’ final selection of 28 is a fascinating blend of Test-toughened experience and emerging young talent, with 17-year-old uncapped back rower Lleucu George the most eye-catching call-up. On the same day as the WRWC squad announcement, George won an historic bronze with the Wales Girls Sevens team at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.

The Scarlets Under-18 starlet joins a Wales senior pack that is back-boned by three go-to figures in the back row – Sioned Harries, a hat-trick heroine against South Africa at the 2014 World Cup, former skipper Rachel Taylor and the powerful Shona Powell-Hughes (pictured above) at number 8. It will be World Cup number three for that key trio along with the ever-influential Elinor Snowsill and Elen Evans, behind the scrum.

Like their Celtic cousins in the Ireland squad, the Wales panel includes players with backgrounds in a number of different sporting disciplines. For example, tighthead Amy Evans has represented Wales in weightlifting and lock Rebecca Rowe was a World Cup and European Championship medal-winning rower with Great Britain.

The rapid rise of 20-year-old scrum half Kiera Bevan is particularly noteworthy as she only started playing rugby in January 2014, while Jodie Evans, who just made her debut against France in the final round of the Six Nations, and Rebecca De Filippo (pictured below), who had taken a break from international rugby before returning this season, have definitely enhanced Wales’ midfield options.

Snowsill is a quick-witted out-half, either fixing defences with her passing ability or neat footwork, or using her accurate right boot to create opportunities or kick points. In the back-three, 21-year-old winger Jasmine Joyce – the only Welsh member of the GB Women’s Sevens team in Rio last year – is a real flyer and has a poacher’s instinct, as does full-back Dyddgu Hywel who was one of Wales’ form backs in the Six Nations.

However, it was up front where Phillips’ charges produced most of their tries during the 2017 Championship. Whether it is via a lineout maul, a scrum or a series of pick-and-goes, the Welsh forwards certainly know where the try-line is – captain Phillips (2), loosehead Caryl Thomas, tighthead Evans (2) and Powell-Hughes (2) scored seven tries between them in the spring.

Catrin Edwards, so long a cornerstone of the Wales pack, missed out on World Cup selection this time, with the management favouring 20-year-old prop Gwenllian Prys – another of the new caps this year. Head coach Phillips admitted it was ‘a difficult decision’ to omit the 70-cap veteran, but praised Edwards for her efforts in ‘building a legacy for younger players like Gwenllian to follow’.

It seems Phillips is very much looking to future with some of his selections as he seeks to build on the foundations left by his predecessor Rhys Edwards, who had coached Wales since 2011. It is a key focus for Phillips in his first year to harness the burgeoning age-grade talent in Wales and give them opportunities to develop and experience Test rugby.

“Selection’s been a pretty lengthy process. Coming out of the Six Nations, we had a good review – things that worked, things that didn’t work – and we’ve also had a look at our next generation,” he said. “Looking at the Under-18s, we had six in the extended squad, giving them an opportunity to get a feel for this level and an opportunity to put their hands up (for selection).

“The dynamic of the sessions and the squad has been excellent because we have experienced players and we’ve some of these new players who are having their first experience of this level. Japan was a game to give a lot of youngsters an opportunity, just to see how they’d react to that level, and then Spain was a bit of a smaller squad, just tapering things off leading into the selection.”

Teenage duo George and Kelsey Jones, along with fellow forwards Alisha Butchers (pictured above) and Morfudd Ifans and centre Hannah Jones (all 20), fit the bill perfectly of emerging young players embracing the step up. Phillips’ daughter Carys, still only 24 herself, is an ideal leader for the group, strong in word and deed throughout a tough four-game losing run in the Six Nations and the emotional aftermath of Elli Norkett’s tragic passing. They will proudly carry their former team-mate’s memory with them to Dublin, Belfast and beyond. #BringIt

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).

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Ireland

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: England

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: New Zealand

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Canada

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Australia

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: USA

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: Hong Kong

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: France