Wales Women are hoping to end their Autumn campaign with a victory over world No.3 side Canada on Sunday at Cardiff Arms Park.
Wales began their Autumn with a 23-5 win over Japan and backed it up with an excellent 29-19 win over South Africa last week, but Canada represent an altogether different challenge this weekend.
Despite their 51-12 defeat to England last weekend, Canada are the third-ranked side in the world for a reason, and it would be an impressive victory for Ioan Cunningham and his side at the Arms Park.
This Autumn has so far been a successful one for Cunningham and his players, professional contracts will finally be handed to players, they sit two from two, but to defeat the Canadians a year out from the World Cup would show exactly the trajectory that this Wales side are heading in.
Cunningham has opted for three changes in the Wales starting XV, Keira Bevan starts at scrum-half with Caryl Thomas and Lisa Neumann coming into the side at loosehead prop and right wing respectively.
On the bench, Kat Evans also comes into the side on the bench as replacement hooker, while Carys Phillips will continue in the starting jersey after a hat-trick in her return to Test match rugby last week.
Canada have rotated for this game, opting for youth over experience.
Justine Pelletier and Veronica Harrigan are chosen to start, with Ngalula Fuamba selected on the bench.
Experienced trio Karen Paquin, Brianna Miller and Laura Russell are all rested, while Marie Thibault and Sarah-Maude Lachance return to action for the first time this Autumn.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 19, 2021
WHAT THEY SAID
Welsh head coach Cunningham said: “Our primary focus is to keep improving. We are pleased with how we went against Japan and South Africa. However, we left a lot of scoring opportunities on the park, that is something we can’t do this weekend. When we create chances to score, we must take them.
“Canada are ranked third in the world for good reason. They have Olympic athletes in the side and World Series sevens players. They will challenge and test us and play an ‘all-court’ game – they are strong up front and put a lot of width on the ball too. We will have to apply ourselves from the off right through to final whistle.
“We are pleased with our progression so far and we are determined to finish the campaign on a high. There is healthy competition within the squad and we have rewarded good performances but it was also important for us to grow confidence and cohesion at this point in time.
“The good work is down to everyone in the squad even though some haven’t featured in the series. The standard of training has been high and that’s down to the whole group. We want to keep building and keep the momentum going on Sunday and beyond.”
Canada head coach Sandro Florino said: “I am very proud of how our team has performed since returning to play.
“There have been many positives to take away, as well as a number of areas that have been identified for us to work on as we continue to develop as a group. We are all looking forward to this final match.
“Wales have performed well in their two most recent matches. They will provide us with another excellent opportunity to see where we are as a team against quality opposition, and get our players more key game time as we prepare for the World Cup.”
Wales team to play Canada
15. Niamh Terry, 14. Lisa Neumann, 13. Hanah Jones, 12. Kerin Lake, 11. Caitlin Lewis, 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Keira Bevan; 1. Caryl Thomas, 2. Carys Phillips, 3. Cerys Hale, 4. Natalia John, 5. Georgia Evans, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Bethan Lewis, 8. Siwan Lillicrap
Replacements: 16. Kat Evans, 17. Cara Hope, 18. Donna Rose, 19. Gwen Crabb, 20. Alex Callender, 21. Ffion Lewis, 22. Robyn Wilkins, 23. Megan Webb
Canada team to play Wales
15. Elissa Alarie, 14. Sabrina Poulin, 13. Sara Kalijuvee, 12. Alexandra Tessier, 11. Paige Farries, 10. Emily Belchos de Goede, 9. Justine Pelletier; 1. Olivia DeMarchant, 2. Veronica Harrigan, 3. DaLeaka Menin, 4. Tyson Beukeboom, 5. Emma Taylor, 6. Courtney Holtkamp, 7. Fabiola Forteza, 8. Gabrielle Senft
Replacements: 16. Emily Tuttosi, 17. Brittany Kassil, 18. Alex Ellis, 19. Ngalula Fuamba, 20. Pamphinette Buisa, 21. Marie Thibault, 22. Sarah-Maude Lachance, 23. Renee Gonzalez