Wales Women have named 16 Ospreys in their 43-man squad for an unprecedented autumn series at Cardiff Arms Park.
Twenty of the players are uncapped, complementing a core of senior players who will be peaking at the next Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.
Representing the Ospreys, Carys Phillips and Kelsey Jones head up the scrum alongside Amy Evans and Cara Hope. Natalia John, Mel Clay and Gwen Crabb will link up with the Welsh squad with Siwan Lillicrap completing the pack.
Keira Bevan gets the nod alongside Osprey half back partner and uncapped Niamh Terry. The back three sees the uncapped wings Sasha Bailey, Emma Hennessy and fullback Lauren Smyth receive the call up alongside Ffion Bowen. Joined in the centre by fellow Ospreys Alecs Donovan and Kerin Lake completes the Ospreys contingent in the backs.
Head coach Rowland Phillips’s team meet South Africa, Hong Kong and Canada on consecutive weekends in November. The games against the Springboks and the Canucks will take place on the morning of the men’s Under Armour Series matches at Principality Stadium, making it a full day of rugby for supporters in Cardiff.
In a new development for the women’s game in Wales, selection for the international side has this season been based on regional participation, with the recently-concluded competition uncovering a host of new talent. The Ospreys Women were crowned champions for the second season running and finished the programme unbeaten.
“The regional programme has been very successful with regards to improving standards in the women’s game, and it’s delivered what we hoped it would,” said Phillips. “It’s enabled us to discover new players and it’s highlighted our strength in depth.”
With an average age of 22, the Wales squad will be put through their paces by Phillips and his assistant coaches, Gareth Wyatt and the newly-appointed Hugh Gustafson. “We’ve got a limited amount of time together in camp before we face South Africa,” explained Phillips. “We know the Springboks have really pushed on their rugby programme, and they’ll be a big and physical challenge to kick-start our autumn series.
“We’re familiar with Hong Kong after the World Cup last year. Even though we won with a bonus point in Dublin, we’ll admit we got our nose bloodied in that match. They play a quick game because they’ve got a lot of speed and agility in their side, so that encounter might warrant a different selection approach to the others.”
Canada represent another World Cup reunion for Wales, which Phillips suggested could be the toughest, yet most informative, test of the autumn: “With Canada being fourth in the world, that’s a great way for us to finish off our autumn series. How we perform in that match will give us clarity on how we move forward.”
Forwards: Alisha Butchers (Scarlets) Alex Callender* (Scarlets) Mel Clay (Ospreys) Gwen Crabb* (Ospreys) Amy Evans (Ospreys) Georgia Evans* (Cardiff Blues) Nia Gwyther* (Scarlets) Cerys Hale (Dragons) Sioned Harries (Scarlets) Cara Hope (Ospreys) Natalia John (Ospreys) Manon Johnes* (Cardiff Blues) Kelsey Jones (Ospreys) Beth Lewis (Dragons) Brea Leung (RGC) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys) Maisie McKenzie* (Scarlets) Carys Phillips (Ospreys) Awen Prysor (Scarlets) Gwenllian Pyrs (RGC) Caryl Thomas (Dragons)
Backs: Sasha Bailey* (Ospreys) Keira Bevan (Ospreys) Hannah Bluck (Dragons) Ffion Bowen* (Ospreys) Bethan Davies* (RGC) Alecs Donovan (Ospreys) Lleucu George (Scarlets) Emma Hennessy* (Ospreys) Jo Jones* (Cardiff Blues) Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets) Jessica Kavanagh (RGC) Kerin Lake (Ospreys) Caitlin Lewis* (Scarlets) Ffion Lewis* (Scarlets) Alicia McComish* (Dragons) Lisa Neumann (RGC) Molly Philpott* (Cardiff Blues) Anghard De Smet* (Cardiff Blues) Lauren Smyth* (Ospreys) Niamh Terry* (Ospreys) Megan Webb* (Cardiff Blues) Robyn Wilkins(Cardiff Blues)
Wales Women's Autumn Fixtures - Cardiff Arms Park:
Saturday 10th November - Wales v South Africa (11:30) – Tickets
Friday 16th November - Wales v Hong Kong (19:00) – Tickets
Saturday 24th November - Wales v Canada (11:30) – Tickets
*denotes uncapped player