By Hannah Blackwell
Elinor Snowsill says Wales are determined to make this year’s TikTok Six Nations as good, if not better than last year’s, with excitement and anticipation building in the camp.
Last season, Ioan Cunningham’s squad finished third behind England and France after winning their opening two games against Scotland and Ireland, both of which they will play in reverse order this year.
They picked up bonus points in both matches, and are hoping to achieve the same this time before facing last year’s champions in Cardiff in round three.
Ireland will be something of an unknown quantity when they arrive at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, having only recently issued professional contracts to their players.
It has been a year since the Welsh players were offered professional contracts, which saw their numbers double, and the squad reached the World Cup quarter-finals in New Zealand earlier in the season.
Snowsill, the most experienced player and outside-half, says Wales’ aim is to present a vibrant and enjoyable brand of rugby that people can support.
“The competition is going to be the hardest it has ever been because all the teams have started funding their players a lot more,” says Snowsill.
“Six Nations after World Cups are always interesting because some players have retired, and some teams have a number of injuries.
“I’m hoping there will be some surprises and that it will be a very exciting championship to watch with teams trying out new patterns and new partnerships.”
Snowsill acknowledged the emotional benefits of being a full-time player, having seen the team’s growth last year, which, according to her, should make them fitter and stronger.
She credits her family for making her stick to the game, even during difficult times.
Georgia Evans, the Saracens forward, is also excited about being back in the mix after missing last year’s games due to a severe arm injury.
Evans is eager to make up for lost time by having a significant impact on this year’s championship.
While Snowsill will be extending her experience within the tournament, Evans is just grateful to be back in the mix and excited to be part of it.
She spent 13 weeks on the sidelines after initial fears that she might lose her limb. She battled to get back for the World Cup, but now wants to make up for lost time by having a major impact in the 2023 championship.
“I’m really excited to be back in with the girls and the vibe is good. I was only out for 13 weeks last year, but when it happened I thought the world had ended,” admitted Evans.
“I missed the Six Nations, and I thought my World Cup was over. Every bad thought you could have went through my mind and it was all work and no play for a long while with my rehab.
“I managed to come back in time to play in the Premier15s final with Saracens and then got straight back into international rugby with Wales on the pre-World Cup tour to Canada. Then it was on to New Zealand for the World Cup.”
The Six Nations has always been special for Evans, and she remembers cheering on the Wales men and women in the past. Now she is in the thick of the action.
“Just after Christmas has always been a favourite time of year for me and my family watching the Six Nations together, just like any Welsh family. That’s why I’m so excited to be a part of it – I can’t believe it at times, it’s a ‘pinch me’ moment,” she added.
“To see the support growing on the sidelines is fantastic and we can’t thank our fans enough for coming out and backing us. Our challenge now is to put in good performances to make them proud and to attract more people to get involved in the game.
“Standing alone as a championship is the way forward for the women’s game. It gives us our own platform and our own identity.”
Wales Women’s senior head coach Ioan Cunningham has named his side to open the 2023 TikTok Six Nations against Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturdayhttps://t.co/Jx0ltq8MOC pic.twitter.com/eQ663D96x8
— GTFM (Sport) (@GTFMSPORT) March 23, 2023