Wales Women head coach Rowland Phillips named a youthful 34-strong squad for the forthcoming Six Nations as his side look to build on a positive November campaign.
Wales were unable to end their autumn campaign with a third straight victory, losing 38-21 to Canada in the final fixture, but Phillips is keeping faith in the squad that came through the Test series and is plotting a huge impact on this year’s Six Nations.
But who will be the players that will light up this month’s competition as they attempt to claim their first ever Six Nations title?
Phillips’ squad is boosted by the return of 48-times capped Elinor Snowsill, who played four games in last season’s Championship but did not feature in the squads for the recent three-Test autumn series.
With six uncapped players named in his squad for the Six Nations, Phillips will hope the international debutants can benefit from Snowsill’s experience.
The talented fly-half made rapid progress after taking up the game in her late teens, captaining the Wales Under-20s before earning her first senior cap against Sweden in 2009.
She featured in the 2010, 2014 and 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cups, registering the only drop goal of the 2014 tournament in Wales’ win over South Africa – her experience on an international stage will play an integral role in steering Phillips’ youthful squad towards success.
Phillips is hoping to put together a young but experienced squad in time for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, and Alisha Butchers certainly fits the bill with 20 caps for Wales at just 21 years of age.
Butchers – who signed for Worcester Valkyries from Scarlets last week – made her debut against Ireland in the 2016 Six Nations as a replacement before starting the following week against Scotland, scoring a try in Wales’ 23-10 victory.
The 21-year-old flanker had a challenging 2018 but returned to the Wales squad for the recent autumn Test series after recovering from an injury sustained in last year’s Six Nations loss to France.
Despite being relatively young, Butchers has proved her quality on the international stage and her physical edge and game understanding could be vital to Wales’ chances.
Phillips’ faith in youth is certainly coming to the fore in time for the Six Nations, and Bethan Lewis is among the new breed of young players leading the charge.
The flanker proved herself one of the key breakout stars of the 2018 autumn series, scoring two tries in Wales’ 65-0 thrashing of Hong Kong.
The 19-year-old won bronze for Wales U18 sevens at last year’s Youth Commonwealth Games and went on to play for Wales Women Development at the recent Dubai 7s Invitational Tournament.
And with eight caps aged just 19, Lewis still has plenty of time to build on what has already been a fine start to her international career.