Butchers to start for Wales in Six Nations finale

Valkyries flanker Alisha Butchers will start for Wales Women in their Six Nations finale against Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday (kick-off 1.30pm).

It will be Butchers’ first start since the opening round match against Wales Women head coach and she swaps places with her Valkyries club-mate Alex Callender who has been named among the replacements on Sunday.

Valkyries wing Jasmine Joyce will also start against Ireland with a fourth Valkyries player, Fion Lewis, on the bench.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support,” Butchers said.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”
Butchers, who made her Valkyries debut against Gloucester-Hartpury in the Tyrrell Premier 15s in January, works as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic,” she said.

“Traditional 15-a-side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part.
“A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Wales Women
15 Lauren Smyth (Ospreys)
14 Jasmine Joyce (Valkyries)
13 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)
12 Lleucu George (Scarlets)
11Jess Kavanagh (RGC)
10 Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears)
9 Keira Bevan (Ospreys)
1 Caryl Thomas (Dragons)
2 Carys Phillips (Ospreys) (C)
3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)
4 Gwen Crabb (Ospreys)
5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)
6 Alisha Butchers (Valkyries)
7 Bethan Lewis (Dragons)
8 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements
16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)
17 Cara Hope (Ospreys)
18 Cerys Hale (Dragons)
19 Alex Callender (Valkyries)
20 Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues)
21 Ffion Lewis (Valkyries)
22 Robyn Wilkins (Blues)
23 Lisa Neumann (RGC)