Ireland Women v Wales Women
Saturday 2nd Feb (kick off 7pm)Thomond Park, Limerick
Wales will be keen to build on their impressive autumn performances against both Canada and the USA in Limerick where only a victory will be good enough for coaches John Williams and Tony Robbins.
Having lost Captain Rhian Williams for both the Six Nations and World Cup with a broken fibia, flanker Melissa Berry wears the armband for the first time. Berry, only 20 years of age, hails from Swansea and is currently a student at St. Marys College in Twickenham.
Not only does Berry have the captaincy to contend with, she also finds herself reverting back to her old position of inside centre as the coaches attempt to fill the hole left by injured captain Williams. Kylie Wilson from Bangor is promoted from the replacement bench to take Berry's position on the flank.
Sue Grainger keeps her position in the second row despite the return to fitness of Clare Donovan and Ronnie Owens wins the battle for the No 9 shirt with Kerry Jenkins on the bench and last season's first choice, Cath Walkley, finds herself relegated to the 'A' team.
Louise Rickard and Sue Jones swap places with Rickard, winning her 50th cap, back in her preferred position of outside centre. Naomi Thomas makes her Six Nations debut as a full back having previously starred on the wing, a change which does not worry Director of Rugby Richard Hodges:
" Naomi has impressed in training and deserves her opportunity in the 15 shirt. She represents the future of this team along with the likes of Melissa Berry and Awen Thomas and they must be thrown in now if they are to gain the experience necessary to succeed in the World Cup."
Coach Williams is aware of how important victory is: " We must win on Saturday. Ireland have improved but we target this as a must win game so we are ready for the French in Bridgend on February 15th. We beat the Irish 15-10 last season and they will fancy their chances but if we build on our performances in the autumn we should return victorious."
15 NAOMI THOMAS14 CLAIRE FLOWERS 13 LOUISE RICKARD12 MELISSA BERRY (CAPT) 11 SUE JONES 10 AWEN THOMAS 9 RONNIE OWENS
1 DAWN MASON 2 JAMIE KIFT 3 KATH LENAGHAN 4 SUE GRAINGER 5 LIZA BURGESS 6 KYLIE WILSON 7 PIP MINTO 8 APRIL DENT
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
The WRU officially unveiled the new pitch today in time for Wales to take on Australia in the first of the Dove Men Series autumn international matches this Saturday. Head Groundsman Lee Evans and colleague Craig Campbell reflect on the 15-week project and look ahead to a pitch perfect future at Millennium Stadium.