Wales Women head coach Rowland Philips has selected a strong side for the Women’s Six Nations opener in Montpellier on Saturday night (9pm local time).
“We made such huge progress during the autumn – especially against Canada in our final game – that it was important to continue to build on the momentum we created.”
There are two changes and two positional for Saturday’s clash from that previous Wales Test. Scarlets pair Hannah Jones and Alisha Butchers return to the side, Jones will partner Alicia McComish in the centre while Butchers returns from injury to start on the blindside flank. There is a reshuffle in the back row with Beth Lewis starting at No 8 in place of injured Sioned Harries and Manon Johnes starting on the openside.
Up front Ospreys hooker Carys Phillips captains the side alongside fellow regional teammate Amy Evans in the front row. An all Osprey second row of Siwan Lillicrap and Mel Clay complete the Ospreys contingent in the forwards. In the backline Keira Bevan gets the nod at scrum-half with young Osprey Lauren Smyth taking the fullback shirt. Kelsey Jones, Cara Hope and Natalia John are all named on the bench as forward cover.
“Physicality will be key against France on Saturday,” added Phillips. “That is their strength and they will come out flying. That is an area we have been working on. We’ve prepared for it and now we need to keep our focus from minutes one to 80. Not only do we need to stand up to the physical challenge France will bring but we need to impose our own tempo on the game too.
“Playing France away from home is the only place you’ll experience such a cauldron in terms of the huge crowd and welcome and that’s something the players must embrace and feed off. France are the envy of the women’s rugby world at the moment and our players will certainly gain from the experience.”
Wales Women v France. Saturday 2 February 9pm (local time). Live on S4C 8pm 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), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets) Manon Johnes (Blues), Bethan Lewis (Dragons)
Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Natalia John (Ospreys), Alex Callender (*Scarlets) , Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Jess Kavanagh (RGC)
Wales Women Six Nations fixtures (KO GMT):
France Women v Wales Sat 2 Feb 8pm GGL Stadium, Montpellier (S4C)
Italy Women v Wales Sat 9 Feb 7pm Stadio Ettore Giardiniero, Lecce (BBC Wales online stream)
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)