Wales Women head coach Rowland Phillips has named 8 Ospreys in his side to face Italy in Lecce on Saturday, K.O 7pm.
There is a new second row partnership with Ospreys locks Natalia John and Gwen Crabb earning their second starts for Wales while fellow regional teammate Siwan Lillicrap moves to No 8 to win her 25th cap. Ospreys second row Mel Clay is ruled out of the match after an abrasion to the leg hasn’t healed from last weekend. Carys Phillips returns as captain and hooker, packing down alongside prop Amy Evans. Keira Bevan gets the nod at scrum-half with fullback Lauren Smyth to complete the Ospreys contingent in the starting 15.
On the bench hooker Kelsey Jones and prop Cara Hope provide the front row cover to bring the Ospreys representation in the national side to 8.
Phillips said, “It was important to continue with this team’s development. While last weekend’s match against France was very difficult all-round, we have confidence in the abilities of these players to bounce back and show what they can do. Natalia impressed when she came on against France and Gwen is a natural line-out leader. We have reshuffled the backrow with Siwan and Beth moving to their more familiar positions of No 8 and flanker. Alisha Butchers is an excellent player and I’m sure she will make a big impact when she takes the field, as will the other replacements as they did last weekend.”
“Physicality will again be key against Italy. They too are benefitting from the momentum of an autumn series and showed how much they’ve progressed in their impressive win over Scotland last weekend (28-7). It would be wrong to underestimate Italy - they have some excellent payers and have developed into a very competitive side with a strong pack and backs who can play wide too.
“Having coached in Italy, I know that once an Italian side feels they can win a match, it’s difficult to stop them so it’s vital to bring the same commitment that we showed against France but with more accuracy of execution It’s important we keep our energy levels high to meet the challenge of two consecutive away games in a week.”
Wales Women v Italy. Sat 9 Feb 8pm. Stadio Via del Mare, Lecce. Live on bbc.co.uk/scrumv 7pm GMT
Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Alicia McComish (Dragons), Lisa Neumann (RGC); Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Natalia John (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Bethan Lewis (Dragons), Manon Johnes (Blues), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Jess Kavanagh (RGC)
Wales Women Six Nations fixtures (KO GMT):
France Women 52-3 Wales Sat 2 Feb 8pm GGL Stadium, Montpellier (S4C)
Italy Women v Wales Sat 9 Feb 7pm Stadio Ettore Giardiniero, Lecce (BBC Wales online)
Wales Women v England, SUNDAY 24 Feb, 12,30PM, CARDIFF ARMS PARK (S4C)
Scotland Women v Wales, Fri 8 March, 7.35pm Scotstoun Stadium Glasgow (BBC Two Wales and BBC Alba)
WALES WOMEN v Ireland, SUNDAY 17 MARCH 1.30PM CARDIFF ARMS PARK (S4C)
TICKETS FOR WALES WOMEN’S HOME MATCHES ARE ON SALE NOW FROM CARDIFF BLUES BOX OFFICE WWW.CARDIFFBLUES.COM/TICKETS