Rowland Phillips confident in development potential of Wales Women. Pic: Getty Images.

Rowland Phillips Backs Wales Women To Bounce Back Against Italy After French Lesson

Rowland Phillips has made two changes and two positional to the Wales Women side to face Italy in Lecce on Saturday as he backed his players to bounce back from the defeat to France.

The Head Coach has named a new second row partnership with Ospreys locks Natalia John and Gwen Crabb earning their second starts while Siwan Lillicrap moves to No 8 to win her 25th cap and Beth Lewis switches back to the blindside.

The backline is unchanged with Elinor Snowsill set to win her 50th Wales cap if she comes on from the bench.

Second row Mel Clay was ruled out of the match after an abrasion to the leg hasn’t healed from last weekend’s 52-3 defeat by the Grand Slam champs in Montpelier.

“It was important to continue with this team’s development.” said Phillips. “While last weekend’s match against France was very difficult all-round, we have confidence in the abilities of these players to bounce back and show what they can do.

“Natalia impressed when she came on against France and Gwen is a natural line-out leader. We have reshuffled the back row with Siwan and Beth moving to their more familiar positions of No 8 and flanker.

“Alisha Butchers is an excellent player and I’m sure she will make a big impact when she takes the field, as will the other replacements as they did last weekend.

“Physicality will again be key against Italy. They too are benefitting from the momentum of an autumn series and showed how much they’ve progressed in their impressive win over Scotland last weekend.

“It would be wrong to underestimate Italy – they have some excellent payers and have developed into a very competitive side with a strong pack and backs who can play wide too.

“Having coached in Italy, I know that once an Italian side feels they can win a match, it’s difficult to stop them so it’s vital to bring the same commitment that we showed against France but with more accuracy of execution It’s important we keep our energy levels high to meet the challenge of two consecutive away games in a week.”

Wales Women v Italy (Sat 9 Feb 8pm. Stadio Via del Mare, Lecce. Live on bbc.co.uk/scrumv 7pm GMT)

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Alicia McComish (Dragons), Lisa Neumann (RGC); Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Natalia John (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Bethan Lewis (Dragons), Manon Johnes (Blues), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)
Replacements: Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Jess Kavanagh (RGC)

Wales Women Six Nations fixtures (KO GMT):
France Women 52-3 Wales
Wales Women v England, Sunday24 Feb, 12,30PM, Cardiff Arms Park (S4C)
Scotland Women v Wales, Fri 8 March, 7.35pm Scotstoun Stadium Glasgow (BBC Two Wales and BBC Alba) WALES Wales Women v Ireland, Sunday 17 March 1.30PM Cardiff Arms Park (S4C)

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