Wales Women make five changes to face France in Six Nations
Feb. 18, 2020
Wales Women face France at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday
Wales Women have made five changes to face France in the Six Nations third round this weekend, with Megan Webb and Caitlin Lewis making their first Championship appearances.
Webb - cousin to Wales scrum-half Rhys and ex-Wales U20s flanker Tommy Reffell - starts at centre after receiving her first cap during the autumn.
Lewis starts on the wing, while Kayleigh Powell returns to the starting line-up at full-back after being forced to withdraw from the Ireland fixture due to injury.
In the forwards, there’s a first Six Nations start for lock Georgia Evans, with Bethan Lewis returning to the backrow alongside Alisha Butchers and captain Siwan Lillicrap.
Wales are hoping to bounce back after suffering a frustrating start to their campaign so far, losing out to Italy 19-15 in the opening round, before a strong Irish side made the most of their opportunities in Donnybrook to claim a 31-12 victory. In both matches, Wales have dominated early on but failed to capitalise on possession.
Wales' next challenge now sees them come up against Les Bleus - against whom they suffered a huge 52-3 defeat last year, with Wales facing the side on the same day they arrived in Montpellier due to snow-related travel issues.
This year, however, they welcome the French - who finished third in the tournament last year (one spot above Wales) - to Cardiff Arms Park for the clash on Sunday, February 23 (noon kick-off), having brought through a raft of new caps and young talent since their 2019 meeting.
Coach Geraint Lewis said: "As we stated during the autumn internationals, our aims are to build depth in our squad 18 months out from the next Rugby World Cup.
"Sunday’s game is a fantastic opportunity to play against quality opposition at our home.
"A number of our players are in the infancy of their international careers and opportunities like this are invaluable ahead of the RWC. It's a big challenge but one we feel they are capable of and deserve. I'm sure they'll relish the occasion.
"Some girls who’ve been playing well have missed out on this occasion, but it gives other players the chance to step up to the plate.
"France are a truly world-class outfit. As with the rest of French rugby, they are well-resourced and are a big and talented team. They’ve lost to England three times recently but by very narrow margins.
"The match will be an excellent gauge for us. We are realistic about where we are in our development as a team and Sunday will be a big occasion to test ourselves against a team in the top four in the world."
"It will be good to play with the crowd behind us at the Arms Park again. It’s always nice to play at home and be part of the Six Nations weekend in Cardiff", Lewis added.
"Our first home game against Italy was good in parts and the support was excellent so hopefully we can build on both elements.
"The Ireland game highlighted some areas to improve and while I don’t think the score was a fair reflection of the game, we will continue to work hard on putting things right as we prepare for France."
Tickets are available from wru.wales/waleswomen
Wales team : Kayleigh Powell; Caitlin Lewis, Megan Webb, Kerin Lake, Lisa Neumann; Robyn Wilkins, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hale, Georgia Evans, Gwen Crabb, Alisha Butchers, Bethan Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap (capt).
Replacements : Molly Kelly, Cara Hope, Ruth Lewis, Robyn Lock, Manon Johnes, Ffion Lewis, Courtney Keight, Lauren Smyth.
Sunday's clash precedes Cardiff Blues' PRO14 clash with Benetton, which kicks off at 5.15pm at the Arms Park.