(Picture – S4C)
Result – New Zealand 44 – 12 – Wales
Wales have named their team to face New Zealand in their Women’s Rugby World Cup opener at Billings Park tomorrow (Wednesday 9th August, 14:45).
In what will be only the second game of the tournament in Ireland, head coach Rowland Phillips has selected a backline full of guile, complemented by a strong forward pack captained by Carys Phillips, to compete with the Black Ferns.
The back three is made up of fullback Dyddgu Hywel and wings Jasmine Joyce and Elen Evans. Twenty-year-old Hannah Jones – one of the standout Wales Sevens players this season – starts in the midfield alongside outside centre Gemma Rowland. Scrum-half Keira Bevan partners fly-half Elinor Snowsill.
Hooker Phillips is joined in the front row by loosehead Caryl Thomas and tighthead Amy Evans, with Rebecca Rowe and Mel Clay named in the second row. They are bolstered by blindside Alisha Butchers, openside Rachel Taylor and number eight Sioned Harries.
There is a place on the bench for uncapped 17-year-old back rower Lleucu George, whilst hooker Kelsey Jones, 18, could also be in line to make her Wales debut.
Coach Phillips said:
“We’ve set out a path to take women’s rugby in Wales to new heights, and while that goes well beyond New Zealand tomorrow, the Black Ferns are an excellent team to test yourself against. They’re one of the perennial favourites, and for good reason, but we’ll be aiming to impose our game on them with the mindset of an 80-minute performance.”
Each of the competing nations is based on the University College Dublin campus for the duration of the pool stages. Phillips praised the UCD facilities, before adding that the squad was excited to see some familiar faces at the university’s Billings Park venue come Wednesday afternoon: “We’re expecting a strong Welsh crowd tomorrow, and the messages of good luck we’ve been receiving from back home have been greatly appreciated by the squad. We’re hoping to do Wales proud with our performance.”
In further player news, Wales centre Rebecca De Filippo has been ruled out for the tournament following a foot injury suffered in training. She will be replaced by 18-year-old India Berbillion.
“Rebecca was always going to be a strong contender for a starting berth in the team, making her withdrawal very disappointing for all concerned,”
“That said, it’s testament to her character that she has remained upbeat despite the setback and has continued to be a positive influence within the camp.”
Wales squad to face New Zealand:
15 Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets)
14 Elen Evans (RGC)
13 Gemma Rowland (Dragons)
12 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)
11 Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets)
10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)
9 Keira Bevan (Ospreys)
1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets)
2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys)
3 Amy Evans (Ospreys)
4 Rebecca Rowe (Dragons)
5 Mel Clay (Ospreys)
6 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets)
7 Rachel Taylor (RGC)
8 Sioned Harries (Scarlets)
16 Kelsey Jones (Ospreys)
17 Cerys Hale (Dragons)
18 Meg York (Dragons)
19 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
20 Lleucu George (Scarlets)
21 Sian Moore (Dragons)
22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)
23 Jodie Evans (Scarlets)
New Zealand v Wales will be streamed live on S4C Chwaraeon’s Facebook page.