The squad contains one uncapped player in Ospreys prop Ruth Lewis and 11 players who made their Wales debuts during the recent five-match Autumn campaign – backs Paige Randall, Megan Webb, Kayleigh Powell, Courtney Keight, Niamh Terry and Caitlin Lewis and forwards Georgia Evans, Abbie Fleming, Molly Kelly, Sarah Lawrence and Robyn Lock.
Jasmine Joyce, Hannah Jones and Alisha Butchers, who recently spent five months playing sevens for the University of Adelaide’s Romas side, return to the squad along with Hannah Bluck and Lleucu George.
Siwan Lillicrap has been handed the squad captaincy for the Six Nations campaign in recognition of the leadership skills she displayed in leading the side in their last four games.
Horsman, Lewis and Wyatt continue in their autumn coaching roles with Rowland Phillips continuing to take time out of the programme, while former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips has been appointed to lead the Wales Women Sevens programme.
The sevens and 15-a-side coaches are working side by side to run a fully integrated, athlete-centred sevens and 15-a-side performance programme during the Six Nations and ahead of a crucial Rugby Europe Trophy series.
Sevens is a key priority for the Wales Women performance strategy and 20 of the Six Nations squad are also in the current sevens training squad of 30 players.
Chris Horsman said, “We are pleased with the progress made during the autumn campaign, both in terms of creating fitness benchmarks and raising our performance standards. We made clear improvements in November and the togetherness shown was obvious throughout the month – from grinding out a gritty, last-minute win over Ireland to impressive performances in beating Scotland and Crawshays along with a solid second-half against a strong Barbarians side. It was just the start but the performances showed there is much more to come from this squad.
“We set out to develop strength in depth during the campaign which was achieved with 14 new caps. Everyone named today has earned their place in the squad but they have a chance now to step up and raise their performance standards to the next level. “Siwan displayed excellent leadership during the autumn campaign and deserves the captain’s armband. At the same time, we will continue to develop leadership qualities throughout the squad during the tournament.
“The Six Nations is a fantastic competition with so much prestige and tradition. I was lucky to be part of it as a player and am excited to be part of this coaching team, leading a senior side into the Six Nations for the first time.
“We are 18 months out from Rugby World Cup 2021 and following the progress made in the autumn, our aims for this tournament will be geared towards how we to continue to improve on all fronts, improving our accuracy and driving standards on and off the pitch in order to close the performance gap on the top six teams in the world.
“It is exciting to be working alongside Ollie and run a fully integrated sevens and 15-a-side programme for the long-term benefit of the players.”
Ollie Phillips said, “It is fantastic to come in and be involved with the Wales Women performance programme at such an exciting stage of their journey. The 15s coaches are building something very special and I hope that the development of the sevens programme can only help and further harness the incredible amount of female talent that exists within Wales.
“Women’s rugby is growing at a rate of knots and with competitions such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, HSBC World Series, Rugby World Cup and the Six Nations all in the calendar, it is hard not to get excited about the game and the opportunities that it is affording to any Welsh female athlete. It is the reason for my involvement and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us.
“We have some ambitious targets in place for this group of players. The initial progress that was made across the autumn period and further progress we expect through participating in such as fantastic and competitive tournament as the Six Nations, is only going to further cement our belief in the ability of this group. The next 18 months are critical for us as we build towards the Rugby World Cup in 15-a-side game and World Series qualification with the Sevens.”
All three home Six Nations games will be played on Sunday lunchtimes at Cardiff Arms Park. Newly appointed captain Siwan Lillicrap is thrilled to lead the side and hoping to build on the support shown during the autumn campaign.
“It’s such a privilege and honour to be handed the role of Six Nations captain. It’s literally what my childhood dreams were made of and I hope I can do the shirt, the players, my family and the coaches proud. There are certainly other leaders in the squad, a group that will continue to grow and develop as we build towards the Rugby World Cup.
“The double header against the Barbarians at Principality Stadium was a huge occasion for women’s rugby in Wales,” added Lillicrap. “It was great to be able to show nearly 13 000 supporters what we’re all about and we hope many of them will support us at Cardiff Arms Park during this campaign.
Wales Women Six Nations squad 2020:
Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Gwen Crabb, Georgia Evans, Abbie Fleming, Cerys Hale, Lleucu George, Cara Hope, Natalia John, Manon Johnes, Kelsey Jones, Molly Kelly, Sarah Lawrence, Bethan Lewis, Ruth Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap, Robyn Lock, Gwenllian Pyrs
Keira Bevan, Hannah Bluck, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Courtney Keight, Kerin Lake, Caitlin Lewis, Ffion Lewis, Lisa Neumann, Kayleigh Powell, Paige Randall, Lauren Smyth, Elinor Snowsill, Niamh Terry, Megan Webb, Robyn Wilkins
Women’s Six Nations tickets are on sale now via HERE including a 3-4-2 package for the three home Six Nations games.