Wales have announced their team to face Canada at Queen's University Belfast tomorrow at 17:00, with both sides aiming for a fifth-place finish in the Women's Rugby World Cup.
In the second meeting between the two in this year’s tournament (with Canada the victors in a high-intensity encounter in the pool stage), head coach Rowland Phillips has kept faith in the same starting team that took on the 2014 finalists just over a week ago.
This means a return to the starting line-up for nine players following Thursday’s bonus-point win against Hong Kong in Dublin, including experienced North Walian duo Dyddgu Hywel and Elen Evans.
“We competed well in our last match against Canada and we know their quality, which is reflected in their world ranking,” says Phillips of the world number three team. “Our positive performance against them gives us a lot of confidence as we move forward - not only in the Women’s Rugby World Cup, but as we continue to build the Welsh women's game for the future.”
Phillips says Wales can expect a very physical and determined Canadian outfit in Belfast; one which will be disappointed not to have qualified for the semi-finals stage.
“What makes this game even more compelling is that we are now familiar with each other’s threats,” believes Phillips. “I'm sure Canada will have learnt a lot about us in that game, and they'll prepare accordingly, but the key for us coming out of that encounter, and the pool stage as a whole, was that we gained belief in ourselves and our structures.
“We were satisfied with aspects of our game against New Zealand and Canada. Despite picking up a bonus-point win against Hong Kong, there weren’t any high-fives after that match: we felt a shared sense of frustration because it was a substandard performance. That’s a reflection of the high standards we have set ourselves.”
Referencing the “fourth-game slump” that often befalls teams in World Cups, Wales’ head coach thinks his team may have been fortunate to experience that malaise in only their third match. “The performance against Hong Kong wasn’t acceptable,” says Phillips. “We know we need to be – and can be – at our best to go one step better against Canada this time around.”
Commending the first phase of the tournament, held at University College Dublin, as having a “real rugby atmosphere”, Phillips also says there is much to gain from the move to Northern Ireland: “The teams here are split up, as opposed to being on a single campus, but the expectations and stakes are now higher. That's allowed for a step up in focus within the camp, with everybody knowing what’s expected of them come game day on Tuesday.”
Wales’ match will be streamed live on the S4C website and the S4C Chwaraeon Facebook page.
Wales Women team to face Canada
15 Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets)
14 Jess Kavanagh-Williams (RGC)
13 Gemma Rowland (Dragons)
12 Hannah Jones (Scarlets)
11 Elen Evans (RGC)
10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons)
9 Sian Moore (Dragons)
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 Gwenllian Pyrs (RGC)
18 Meg York (Dragons)
19 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
20 Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys)
21 Keira Bevan (Ospreys)
22 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys)
23 Jodie Evans (Scarlets)