Rowland Phillips has praised the efforts of his Wales women’s team, but warned that paying players on its own will not close the gap on England.
The head coach watched his team lose 51-12 at Cardiff Arms Park in their Six Nations clash, a scoreline that did not reflect the balance of play for the middle part of the match.
Wales scored two tries and had periods when they put England under sustained pressure but the ruthless manner in which England took their nine touchdowns reflected the fact that the fixture is one between a fully professional outfit and a largely amateur one.
There have been calls for Wales to follow England and create a full-time pro group of players, but Phillips says the mis-match between the women’s game in the two countries is about more than just finance for the players.
“After the first stages of the game, it was a competitive game of rugby and there was a block of around 40 minutes in the middle of the game when both sides were putting each other under pressure,” said Phillips.
“Two years ago, we had little control of the game and last season we were almost always under pressure. Since then, we have done a lot of work under the radar and there is much more physicality about this team.
“We need to capitalise on this and build things going forward. But it’s more than just grabbing 30 players and turning them professional; the fact is they have maybe six times more players to choose from playing adult rugby in England.
“They may even have more clubs in England than we have players. That’s a big thing we’re working on – the participation side of our game.
“If we spent more time together as a team, we would get better. But it’s a bigger picture than just that. We may not reap the rewards for years to come.”
Wales scored tries in either half through Jess Kavanagh and Cerys Hale with Robyn Wilkins converting the second of those scores.
Wing Kavanagh’s score was a beauty as she finished off a high quality Wales move by cutting back inside three England defenders to make the line.
But whenever England turned on the power, they tended to break at least one vital tackle and their support play and fitness was formidable. Red Rose pair Sarah Bern and Jessica Breach both scored a brace of tries as they made it three straight wins to stay on course for Grand Slam glory.
Wales are still searching for their first victory after a defeat to France and draw with Italy, but this performance should provide them with the belief they are capable of going to Scotland in the next round and winning.
Skipper Carys Phillips said: ‘Playing England is a different ball game, but most of their points came from our mistakes. They actually didn’t really create that much.
“We will review things and sharpen up our game before playing Scotland because that will be another tough game.
“But, overall, I’m very pleased with the girls and very proud of the belief they showed.”
Wales: Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Hannah Bluck (Cardiff Blues), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Bethan Lewis (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys).
Subs: Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Natalia John (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Lisa Neumann (RGC); Lauren Smyth (Ospreys).
Tries: Kavanagh, Hale; con: Wilkins.
England: Sarah McKenna; Abby Dow, Rachael Burford, Zoe Harrison, Jess Breach; Katy Daley-Mclean, Natasha Hunt; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Catherine O’Donnell, Abbie Scott (capt), Sarah Beckett, Marlie Packer, Poppy Cleall.
Subs: Lark Davies, Hannah Botterman, Shaunagh Brown, Jo Brown, Sarah Hunter, Claudia Macdonald, Carys Williams, Emily Scott.
Tries: Bern (2), Breach (2), Packer, O’Donnell, Dow, Beckett, Daley-Mclean; cons: Harrison (3).