Valkyries quartet to face Italy

Valkyries again have four players in Wales’ matchday squad for the Six Nations match against Italy in Lecce on Saturday (kick-off 7.15pm GMT).

Winger Jasmine Joyce retains her place in the starting XV with Alisha Butchers, Ffion Lewis and Alex Callender, who her first cap against France last weekend, among the replacements.

“It was important to continue with this team’s development. While last weekend’s match against France was very difficult all-round, we have confidence in the abilities of these players to bounce back and show what they can do,” said Wales Head Coach Rowland Phillips.

“Natalia John impressed when she came on against France and Gwen Crabb is a natural line-out leader. We have reshuffled the back row with Siwan Lillicrap and Beth Lewis moving to their more familiar positions of No 8 and flanker. Alisha Butchers is an excellent player and I’m sure she will make a big impact when she takes the field, as will the other replacements as they did last weekend.

“Physicality will again be key against Italy. They too are benefitting from the momentum of an autumn series and showed how much they’ve progressed in their impressive win over Scotland last weekend.

“It would be wrong to underestimate Italy – they have some excellent payers and have developed into a very competitive side with a strong pack and backs who can play wide too.

“Having coached in Italy, I know that once an Italian side feels they can win a match, it’s difficult to stop them so it’s vital to bring the same commitment that we showed against France but with more accuracy of execution It’s important we keep our energy levels high to meet the challenge of two consecutive away games in a week.”

Wales Women | 15 Lauren Smyth (Ospreys), 14 Jasmine Joyce (Valkyries), 13 Hannah Jones (Scarlets), 12 Alicia McComish (Dragons), 11 Lisa Neumann (RGC), 10 Robyn Wilkins (Blues), 9 Keira Bevan (Ospreys), 1 Caryl Thomas (Dragons), 2 Carys Phillips (Ospreys) (C), 3 Amy Evans (Ospreys), 4 Natalia John (Ospreys), 5 Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), 6 Bethan Lewis (Dragons),  7 Manon Johnes (Blues), 8 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
Replacements: 16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), 17  Cara Hope (Ospreys), 18 Cerys Hale (Dragons), 19 Alisha Butchers (Valkyries), 20 Alex Callender (Valkyries), 21 Ffion Lewis (Valkyries), 22 Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), 23 Jess Kavanagh (RGC)