Wales and Ospreys Women captain Carys Phillips believes her side are in the best shape yet to face their Six Nations challenges
Speaking at today's Six Nations launch, the 42- times capped front row forward said: “This year’s build-up feels different following a new regional training and playing programme leading into a successful autumn series."
The new Women's regional rugby in Wales were part of a new set up and took place over six weeks before the Autumn Internationals. Introduced by Wales Women head coach Rowland Phillips the change was made in a bid to improve standards and fitness ahead of this year's Six Nations and the 2021.
Phillips added: "Following the regional programme and a Six Nations preparation period including a useful warm-up game against Ireland, I believe we will more competitive than you’ve seen in recent years.”
Wales Women fell just short in a warm up fixture against Ireland last weekend. Despite tries from Ospreys hooker Kelsey Jones and a brace from Jasmine Joyce, the visitors came away with a 29-19 defeat.
“We have a lot of youngsters in our side. Our backrow has an average age of 19 and they aren’t daunted by the challenges facing them, they just see them as any other game."
“We have France and Italy first up as back to back away games which is a new experience for us. It’s a cliché but we really are just focussing on France to start with and taking each game one by one. They are an excellent outfit as current champions, and we are expecting a huge crowd in Montpellier. It was a similar scenario two years’ ago in France – it will be a tough challenge away from home but you couldn’t ask for a better experience to kick off the tournament.”
She added: “You have to concentrate on playing rugby but you also have to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it. France are a physical side that also like to kick the ball and play a wide game but we’re in a confident place and it’s games like this we need to make further progress as a team.”
Wales' home games will once again be played at Cardiff Arms Park.
"We are really looking forward to coming back to the Arms Park for Round Three and a huge clash against England."
Wales Women racked up some impressive performances during the Autumn campaign, including a 19-5 victory over South Africa and a 65-0 triumph over Hong Kong.
“Cardiff Arms Park is an excellent place to play, the crowd really got behind us in the autumn which means so much to us as a team.”
Tickets for Wales Women v England (Sunday 24 Feb 12.30pm) and Ireland (Sunday 17 March 1.30pm) are on sale now from Cardiff Blues box office online and to personal callers, (CLICK HERE).
On a more disappointing note, Wales Women No 8 Sioned Harries suffered an ankle injury in the side’s Six Nations warm-up against Ireland and after further assessment will undergo an operation ruling her out of the forthcoming tournament.
Head coach Rowland Phillips is not currently planning to replace Harries in the Six Nations squad. He said, “It is obviously a disappointing blow for Sioned and for us as a squad. However, we are a tight knit group with a fair amount of strength in depth, especially in the second and back row. In particular we have a number of very young players who are set to gain a huge amount of international experience and exposure throughout this tournament.”
Bethan Davies and Gwenllian Pyrs were recently involved in a road traffic incident and are recovering from the effects of that before returning to rugby training.