Wales head coach Rowland Phillips has challenged his players to build on the momentum from their Women’s Six Nations after naming a 35-strong squad for their biggest autumn series to date.
Phillips has named 14 uncapped players for Wales’ five matches in November as he looks towards the future after guiding his team to a fourth-place finish in this year’s Championship.
Hooker Carys Phillips will continue to captain the squad for the series, which will begin with three away matches against Spain, Ireland and Scotland before returning to Wales.
Wales will then play their first match against a women’s Crawshay’s team coached by new WRU Council Member Liza Burgess and the first professional female coach in Wales – Rachel Taylor.
That game will take place at Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale on Saturday 23 November and Taylor will also be part of the opposition coaching team a week later for Wales Women’s first match against the Barbarians in the Principality Stadium double header.
Speaking about his squad, Phillips said: “Our key aim is to build a squad of young players with significant experience under their belts. This autumn series is a huge opportunity to do that.
“All players will gain from the experience of travelling away for three testing encounters against Spain, Ireland and Scotland – all of whom still need to qualify for the World Cup.
“And to be part of two historic encounters in Wales at the end of November against the Crawshay’s and Barbarians is something we will all look forward to and enjoy.
We finished the Six Nations on a high with a dramatic win over Scotland and then a pleasing win and performance against Ireland and we want to build on that momentum this season.
“There is excellent quality coming through – that was evident in the regional programme again this summer and some of those players are rewarded with squad places.
“We have a responsibility to continue to develop those players, maximise their potential and also manage them well. We will expose them to an international environment and give them game time when ready.
“The likes of Lauren Smyth, Manon Johnes, Alex Callender and Gwen Crabb all earned their first caps last autumn and have gone on to become key players in the squad.
“The opportunity is there for others to do the same if they apply themselves. We are clear on where we need to develop to become consistently competitive.
“There’s a better understanding now from players of what is required of an international player in terms of fitness, skill levels, attitude and everything else that goes with being an international rugby player.
– 35 players named for bumper #WalesWomen November series
– Cyfle i ddatblygu profiad yng ngharfan ifanc
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) October 3, 2019
“We aren’t looking beyond the first game. Spain are making significant progress and will provide a tough challenge especially on their home turf.
“We are looking forward to locking horns with our Six Nations adversaries Ireland and Scotland who both have a point to prove and we want to engage as many home fans as possible in our journey and be part of our home matches at Ebbw Vale at Principality Stadium.”
WRU international skills coaches Geraint Lewis and Chris Horsman have joined Phillips and Gareth Wyatt in the Wales coaching set-up and will provide input throughout the autumn campaign.
Phillips added: “Geraint and Chris are excellent coaches. With their wealth of experience working with young international players, they understand the need to adapt styles and management skills accordingly.
“It’s hugely encouraging for the women’s programme to become a more integrated part of the WRU performance structure. I know I’ve learned a lot from coaching female athletes and Chris and Geraint have already shown they will add value to the programme.”
Wales Women autumn series squad (uncapped*):
Forwards: Alex Callender (Scarlets), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Georgia Evans* (Cardiff Blues), Abbie Fleming* (Cardiff Blues), Cerys Hale (Cardiff Blues), Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Jordan Hopkins* (Cardiff Blues), Gwenllian Jenkins* (Scarlets), Natalia John (Ospreys), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Bethan Lewis (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Robyn Lock* (Ospreys), Carys Phillips (Ospreys), Gwenllian Pyrs (RGC)
Backs: Keira Bevan, (Ospreys), Angharad Desmet* (Scarlets), Alecs Donovan (Ospreys), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Courtney Keight* (Ospreys), Kerin Lake (Ospreys), Caitlin Lewis* (Scarlets), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Rebekah O’Loughlin* (Cardiff Blues), Kayleigh Powell* (Ospreys), Paige Randall* (Cardiff Blues), Catherine Richards* (Cardiff Blues), Lauren Smyth (Ospreys), Elinor Snowsill Ospreys), Niamh Terry* (Ospreys), Megan Webb* (Cardiff Blues), Robyn Wilkins (Cardiff Blues)
Wales Women fixtures November 2019:
Spain v Wales Women, Estadio Nacional Computense, Madrid, Sunday 3 November 12.45pm local time
Ireland v Wales Women, The Bowl, UCD, Dublin, Sunday 10 November 1pm
Scotland v Wales Women, Glasgow, Sunday 17 November 3pm
Crawshay’s v Wales Women, Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale Saturday 23 November 2.30pm
Wales Women v Barbarians Saturday 30 November, Principality Stadium 11.45am