Source: WRU

Cunningham wields the Axe

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Wales v France – Preview

Sunday 21 April, Cardiff Arms Park

Teams are shown below

The alarming prospect for Wales is a drop from WXV1 to WXV3 within one year. That is the reality of their current position.

They face France at home in Cardiff, a game they can only dream of winning. Then a final test against Italy, also at home, on which an unbearable load depends. We have to assume they will still be winless when the Azzurre come to town. They in turn will have their sights on an all-important third place in the Six Nations.

Not to put too fine a point upon it, Ioan Cunningham has taken the knife to his squad; he has made seven changes. Bethan Lewis, Jasmine Joyce, Jenny Hesketh, Keira Bevan and Kerin Lake all disappear from the starting line-up. That quintet includes players who would have been seen as undroppable till recently.

Two new faces appear: Catherine Richards will start on the wing and Mollie Wilkinson, a fly-half, waits her turn.

Cunningham will have been running through the most sensible steps forward ever since the unwanted reverse in Round One. It was Wales’ misfortune to face England to start their comeback. You could call that second loss the catalyst for the more alarming defeat in Cork. Putting a new-look side together at this stage is hardly a recipe for success, but the management must have found this the only sensible response.

The end of the tournament no longer means a break till the next one. The new global WXV makes a failing team pay for its earlier performances.

Their results thus far:

v Scotland 18-20
v England 10-46
v Ireland 5-36


The team the French co-coaches have picked shows all too clearly what they think of the opposition. They send Madoussou Fall to the bench, where I suspect she’ll stay till a late hour. In her place Charlotte Escudero is shunted forward to the second row. Just as surprising, while bringing Tinea Feleu into the starting XV at Number 8, they move Romane Ménager to the blind side. Her sister, now the vice-captain, is also saved up for a rainy day.

The other major alteration sees the return of three Sevens players, Chloé Jacquet (centre), Anne-Cécile Ciofani and Joanna Grisez (both on the wing). This is further confirmation of French belief in marrying the two squads as closely as possible.

It will be fascinating to see how far this starting fifteen will be retained for next week’s match.

The French equivalent to the English Inside Line is ‘Âmes Soeurs’, or ‘Soul Sisters’. It follows the team to the Italy game. All is sweetness and light, except for the pain of fitness sessions and final fortissimo tirades from the two coaches in turn.



15 Kayleigh Powell 14 *Catherine Richards 13 Hannah Jones (captain) 12 Carys Cox 11 Courtney Keight 10 Lleucu George 9 Sian Jones 1 Gwenllian Pyrs 2 Carys Phillips 3 Sisilia Tuipulotu 4 Abbie Fleming 5 Natalia John 6 Alishia Butchers 7 Alex Callender 8 Georgia Evans

16 Molly Reardon 17 Abbey Constable 18 Donna Rose 19 Kate Williams 20 Gwennan Hopkins 21 Keira Bevan 22 *Mollie Wilkinson 23 Jasmine Joyce


15 Emilie Boulard 14 Joanna Grisez 13 Chloë Jacquet 12 Gabrielle Vernier 11 Anne-Cécile Ciofani 10 Lina Queyroi 9 Pauline Bourdon Sansus 1 Annaëlle Deshayes 2 Agathe Sochat 3 Assia Khalfaoui 4 Manae Feleu (captain) 5 Charlotte Escudero 6 Romane Ménager, 7 Emeline Gros 8 Teani Feleu

16 Elisa Riffonneau 17 Ambre Mwayembe 18 Clara Joyeux 19 Madoussou Fall 20 Gaëlle Hermet 21 22 Lina Tuy 23 Morgane Bourgeois


Referee: Hollie Davidson (SRU)
ARs: Clara Munarini (FIR) and Maria Latos (DFB)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (FIR)


BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and app from 15.00 to17.15

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