Ospreys hooker, Carys Phillips, will captain an exciting mix of experience and youth when Wales head to the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup next month.
- 8 Ospreys Women named in the squad that will face New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong in the pool stages
- Carys Phillips will continue as captain for the competition, with Wales' first game on 9th August against the Kiwis
- Forwards Mel Clay, Amy Evans, Kelsey Jones, Siwan Lillicrap and Shona Powell-Hughes, and backs Keira Bevan and Robyn Wilkins are the other Ospreys in the squad
Wales are drawn in what is being seen as the most challenging pool of the competition, facing New Zealand, Canada - second and third seeds respectively - and Hong Kong over the course of eight days.
Phillips is joined by seven of her regional colleagues as the Ospreys, forwards Mel Clay, Amy Evans, Kelsey Jones, Siwan Lillicrap and Shona Powell-Hughes, and backs Keira Bevan and Robyn Wilkins all selected.
"There's a tremendous amount of excitement within the squad for those pool games," says head coach Rowland Phillips. "There's a real enthusiasm amongst the team about facing two of the top nations in the game, because you play international rugby in order to compete against the best."
Warm-up matches against Japan, Spain and England have given Wales confidence heading into the biggest edition of the tournament to date. Phillips says: "The improvement in performance over those three fixtures is a reflection of the hard work that the players have put in to improve key areas of our game."
Whilst several of Wales' players have featured in the previous two Women's Rugby World Cups, Phillips insists that wasn't a deciding factor in their selection. "Having experience amongst the squad is valuable, but more important is the fact that our selections are based on merit.
"We started with a squad of 50, which had to be whittled down to 28, so there's inevitably going to be disappointment for some players. Our job as coaches is to make sure that we've made the right decisions."
Elen Evans, Sioned Harries, Shona Powell-Hughes, Elinor Snowsill and Rachel Taylor are some of those set to feature in their third Women's Rugby World Cup. In contrast, 17-year-old back rower Lleucu George could be in line to gain her first full cap for Wales.
"Lleucu's inclusion highlights the value of our warm-up matches," comments Phillips, who admits selection was also determined with an eye on the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup. "She was outstanding in the game against Japan, and showed some natural qualities that we are trying to develop.
"We've given new players opportunities over the past few weeks, and she's one who's grasped them with both hands. Physically, she's more than capable enough to deal with the rigours of international rugby, which is impressive for someone so young, but we'll be smart with how we manage her."
Phillips has emphasised the need for his team to start their games well; something they will aim to achieve on the opening day of the competition when they take on New Zealand at Billings Park.
Wales Women's squad for the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup:
Forwards: Alisha Butchers (Scarlets); Mel Clay (Ospreys); Amy Evans (Ospreys); Lleucu George (Scarlets); Cerys Hale (Dragons); Sioned Harries (Scarlets); Morfudd Ifans (Scarlets); Kelsey Jones (Ospreys); Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys); Carys Phillips (captain, Ospreys); Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys); Gwenllian Pyrs (Scarlets); Rebecca Rowe (Dragons); Rachel Taylor (Scarlets); Caryl Thomas (Scarlets); Megan York (Dragons).
Backs: Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Elen Evans (Scarlets); Jodie Evans (Scarlets); Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons); Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets); Hannah Jones (Scarlets); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets); Sian Moore (Dragons); Jess Kavanagh-Williams (Scarlets); Gemma Rowland (Dragons); Elinor Snowsill (Dragons); Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys).
Wales Women's Pool A fixtures: New Zealand v Wales, Wednesday 9th August (14:45), Billings Park UCD; Canada v Wales, Sunday 13th August (17:00), Billings Park UCD; Wales v Hong Kong, Thursday 17th August (17:15), UCD Bowl.