Coach Rowland Phillips has picked 10 uncapped players in his Wales Women Six Nations squad.
Phillips has named the new faces as part of a squad of 36 with potential debutantes among forwards and backs.
The new players are Ospreys trio Natalia John, Amy Thomas and Cara Hope, Scarlets’ Beth Lewis and Cardiff Blues’ Awen Prysorin the forwards; Ospreys’ Alecs Donovan, Cardiff Blues’ Hannah Bluck, and Scarlets trio Jade Knight, Lisa Neumann and Angharad De Smet among the backs.
Phillips said: “They’ve brought a real hunger and energy to training, which is infectious. There’s a fresh feel to the squad, and a sense of building for the long term.”
Each player in the squad has been part of Wales Women’s One Programme (dovetailing fifteens and sevens) for the past two months – with the exception of flanker Prysor, who impressed the coaches with her regional performances for the Blues.
Phillips, who will shortly name a team to face Ireland in a friendly this Sunday in Ystrad Mynach (13:00), said he has seen a shift in the kind of players who are coming through the ranks.
“The younger players have played the game a lot longer now. We’re seeing 18-year-olds who have played rugby for the past six or seven years, where in previous years they might have converted from different sports or taken up the game from an older age. It reflects the growth of the game in Wales.
“The exciting thing for us as coaches is that we’re identifying players outside of this squad who we can see have great potential, whether that’s at regional U18 or regional senior level. Those youngsters are allowing us to forward plan as we build towards the 2021 World Cup.”
The naming of 36 players takes into account the seven individuals who will miss the first round of Women’s Six Nations games on sevens duty in Brisbane, as they prepare for the Commonwealth Games this April.
Wales have also named a development team of six players who will train with the senior squad throughout the tournament. Phillips said: “Their presence will reinforce the squad. Even though they may not quite be ready for Six Nations rugby, they are players who we feel will benefit from working alongside the squad as part of their development.”
Wales Women begin the tournament by welcoming Scotland to Colwyn Bay’s Stadiwm Zip World on Friday 9th February (18:00), prior to the corresponding Wales U20 fixture at the same venue.
They will play all their home fixtures in this year’s tournament in North Wales, with the exception of their game against Italy, which will take place at Principality Stadium as part of a double-header with the men’s squad on Sunday 11th March.
Wales Women’s Six Nations Squad:
Forwards: Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Amy Thomas (Ospreys), Awen Prysor* (Cardiff Blues), Beth Lewis* (Scarlets), Cara Hope* (Ospreys), Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Gwenllian Pyrs (RGC), Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Meg York (Dragons), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Natalia John* (Ospreys), Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets), Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys), Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys).
Backs: Alecs Donovan* (Ospreys), Angharad De Smet (Scarlets), Elinor Snowsill (Dragons), Ffion Lewis* (Scarlets), Gemma Rowland (Dragons), Hannah Bluck* (Cardiff Blues), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Jade Knight* (Scarlets), Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Jessica Kavanagh-Williams (RGC), Jodie Evans (Scarlets), Kerin Lake (Ospreys), Lisa Neumann (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Rebecca De Filippo (Dragons), Rhiannon Nokes (Ospreys), Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues), Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys).
Development Players: Amy Morgan (Scarlets), India Berbillion (Dragons), Katie Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Katie Thicker (Scarlets), Liliana Podpadec (Dragons), Teleri Davies (RGC).