Warriors Women have five players named in the Wales squad for this Sunday’s Women’s Six Nations Championship opener against Italy at Cardiff Arms Park (kick-off 1pm).
Gwen Crabb, Alex Calender and Jasmine Joyce all start, while Alisha Butchers and Ffion Lewis are amongst the replacements as Wales look to get their campaign off to a winning start.
Joyce, along with teammate Butchers, missed Wales’ five-match autumn series after taking up an opportunity to play for Adelaide University in the Australian national sevens league. The speedy wing has been in impressive form for Warriors this term, scoring a long-range try during her side’s bonus point victory over Firwood Waterloo before Christmas and will undoubtedly be relishing this year’s northern hemisphere showpiece.
Swansea-born Crabb packs down in the engine room for her tenth cap, while Callender gets the nod at blindside flanker.
“There was debate and competition around every position in the selection meeting, which is exactly what we want,” said Wales Coach Chris Horsman.
“We set out to develop strength in depth during the autumn and those games really gave us a chance to look at the group with the 2021 Rugby World Cup in mind.
“There was case for every player to be involved in some way, but we feel this matchday squad is the best placed to make the most the opportunity this weekend.
“As in the autumn, we want to go out and perform in every game, improving all the time.”
Italy finished in second place in last season’s competition, beating France comfortably along the way.
“Italy has always been a key match for us, and this Sunday will be no different,” added Horsman.
“It will be a tough game with no hiding place. We have asked a lot of the players, increasing the intensity of training and they’ve met the challenge head on. The aim of that is to not only perform under pressure during the Six Nations, but also, longer term, to close the gap on teams above us in the world rankings.
“We are concentrating on ourselves and this week, not looking beyond the challenge of Italy on Sunday.”
Wales Women | 15 Kayleigh Powell, 14 Jasmine Joyce, 13 Hannah Jones, 12 Kerin Lake, 11 Lisa Neumann, 10 Robyn Wilkins, 9 Keira Bevan, 1 Gwenllian Pyrs, 2 Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hale, 4 Natalia John, 5 Gwen Crabb, 6 Alex Callender, 7 Bethan Lewis, 8 Siwan Lillicrap (c)
Replacements | 16 Molly Kelly, 17 Cara Hope, 18 Ruth Lewis, 19 Georgia Evans, 20 Alisha Butchers, 21 Manon Johnes, 22 Ffion Lewis, 23 Paige Randall