Source: INPHO/Ben Brady

Can Wales rise to their own expectations?

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Wales v England – Round Three

Live Coverage: BBC Two from 14.00 (14:15 kick-off, BST), plus Flo Sports in the USA.

First plays second in a juicy tie in the Welsh capital. Teams below.


Wales are full of optimism, which is great to see. They find themselves in the same position as last year, when they won their first two matches.

Now comes the challenge of altering what followed. It detracted from their third place, the best since 2009. Skipper Hannah Jones reckons they now have their best chance of reversing fortunes. They are bucked by their first ever full house.

All of Wales has been waxing lyrical about the performance of their front-row, Gwen Pyrs, Kelsey Jones and Sisilia Tuipulotu.

Their showing in Scotland was unusual in that they all stayed on the field for 79 minutes. That is simply unheard of in modern rugby. Was Ioan Cunningham so overwhelmed by their performance that he was reluctant to replace them? I don’t think his alarm-system failed to remind him.

When it comes to facing England, how long will the Welsh front three stay on board? The Red Rose pack will have a hard task mastering this opposition, but the feted trio will find themselves running around much further than they did in Edinburgh. Then the bench will be tested to the full.

Cunningham makes two enforced changes: Kerin Lake has suffered an ankle injury, and Carys Williams-Morris, like Amy Cokayne, is away representing the RAF at Kingsholm against the Army.

He goes for an understandable 6/2 split, which allows Bryonie King the chance of a debut.

He will have made good use of the fortnight’s respite to work on aspects of the game where he and his colleagues feel the team showed faults. Scotland don’t often score three tries in 6N games.


Simon Middleton isn’t one to keep a winning team together. He has the pleasure of welcoming players back from injury: Alex Matthews, Ellie Kildunne, Hannah Botterman and Maud Muir, but only Matthews takes a starting position (No 8), the third choice in three games.

Players dropping out after Round Two include Amy Cokayne (that RAF match), Claudia Macdonald (that right knee), Emily Robinson, Liz Crake and Kelsey Clifford.

Source: INPHO

Emma Sing (Photo: ©INPHO/Juan Gasparini)

Emma Sing gets her first start at the rear; it will be fascinating to see whether the new back-three can combine as well as the Dow-Breach-Macdonald axis against Italy.

At last May Campbell has the chance of a well-earned debut cap. That will delight not only her Saracens’ fans, but many others who see her selection as long overdue. Those same fans have to be satisfied with only eight Sarries choices out of 23.

The injury list has shortened, but is still long enough to offer you a football, hockey or cricket team. There’s another fantasy list for you.

The relative inexperience of the XV is striking. In the backs Abby Dow is the doyenne with 32 caps. In the pack only three (skipper Marlie Packer, Matthews and Sarah Bern) top fifty. By the standards of the past few years that’s starvation rations.

It’s curious how much England’s game-plan has shifted since the World Cup. The first driving maul against Italy came when people with trains to catch were already getting fidgety. By contrast Lucy Packer has completed 188 passes in two games. She kept variations (a box-kick, a snipe) to a minimum, and the backs have returned to their try-scoring form of recent years, the back-three adding twelve in two matches.

Could this possibly be a reaction to criticism of their style of play in the final stages of the RWC – an admission that they got their tactics wrong there?

We can look forward to a great occasion, followed by fans all around the world.



15 Courtney Keight, 14 Lisa Neumann, 13 Hannah Jones (captain), 12 Hannah Bluck, 11 Lowri Norkett, 10 Elinor Snowsill, 9 Keira Bevan, 1 Gwenllian Pyrs, 2 Kelsey Jones, 3 Sisilia Tuipulotu, 4 Abbie Fleming, 5 Georgia Evans, 6 Bethan Lewis, 7 Alex Callender, 8 Sioned Harries


16 Carys Phillips, 17 Cara Hope, 18 Cerys Hale, 19 Natalia John, 20 Kate Williams, 21 *Bryonie King, 22 Ffion Lewis, 23 Robyn Wilkins


15. Emma Sing, 14. Jess Breach, 13. Lagi Tuima, 12. Tatyana Heard, 11. Abby Dow, 10. Holly Aitchison, 9. Lucy Packer, 1. Mackenzie Carson, 2. Lark Davies, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Zoe Aldcroft, 5. Cath  O’Donnell, 6. Sadia Kabeya, 7. Marlie Packer (captain), 8. Alex Matthews


16. *May Campbell, 17. Hannah Botterman, 18. Maud Muir, 19. Delaney Burns, 20. Sarah Beckett, 21. Ella Wyrwas, 22. Sarah McKenna, 23. Ellie Kildunne