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Wales Women confident ahead of Six Nations

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WALES Women captain Carys Phillips believes her side are in the best shape yet to face their Six Nations challenges

“This year’s build-up feels different following a new regional training and playing programme leading into a successful autumn series,” said the 42-times capped front row forward.

“Following that and a Six Nations preparation period including a useful warm-up game against Ireland, I believe we will more competitive than you’ve seen in recent years.

“We have a lot of youngsters in our side. Our backrow has an average age of 19 and they aren’t daunted by the challenges facing them, they just see them as any other game.

“We have France and Italy first up as back to back away games which is a new experience for us. It’s a cliché but we really are just focussing on France to start with ad taking each game one by one. They are an excellent outfit as current champions, and we are expecting a huge crowd in Montpellier. It was a similar scenario two years’ ago in France – it will be a tough challenge away from home but you couldn’t ask for a better experience to kick off the tournament.

“You have to concentrate on playing rugby but you also have to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it.

“France are a physical side that also like to kick the ball and play a wide game but we’re in a confident place and it’s games like this we need to make further progress as a team.”

Wales’ home games will once again be played at Cardiff Arms Park.

“We are really looking forward to coming back to the Arms Park for Round Three and a huge clash against England.

“Cardiff Arms Park is an excellent place to play, the crowd really got behind us in the autumn which means so much to us as a team.”

Tickets for Wales Women v England (Sunday, Feb 24, 12.30pm) and Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm) are on sale now from Cardiff Blues box office online and to personal callers.

On a more disappointing note, Wales Women No 8 Sioned Harries suffered an ankle injury in the side’s Six Nations warm-up against Ireland and after further assessment will undergo an operation ruling her out of the forthcoming tournament.

Head coach Rowland Phillips is not currently planning to replace Harries in the Six Nations squad. He said: “It is obviously a disappointing blow for Sioned and for us as a squad. However, we are a tight knit group with a fair amount of strength in depth, especially in the second and back row. In particular we have a number of very young players who are set to gain a huge amount of international experience and exposure throughout this tournament.”

Bethan Davies and Gwenllian Pyrs were recently involved in a road traffic incident and are recovering from the effects of that before returning to rugby training.

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Division 3: Three-horse race

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THE Division 3 title race and promotion will be decided on Saturday (Aug 24) with three teams all still in the hunt.

Last week, Llanrhian, who had been top prior to their game, saw their match at Llangwm Seconds called off after they claimed their pitch was wet.

Herbrandston then beat Lamphey to move top of Division 3 while the Stags picked up enough points to knock Llanrhian down to third.

Going into the final round of games, Herbrandston are 19 points ahead of Lamphey and 22 points above Llanrhian.

Herbie face a trip to Narberth Seconds knowing a win will see them crowned Champions while a draw would also be enough.

A defeat could allow Lamphey in to be crowned Champions but that would also rely on Herbie not picking up more than 11 points.

Lamphey face fourth placed Laugharne in what is likely to be a tough game for both sides.

Llanrhian still have an outside chance of claiming the title but they would need to rely on Herbie and Lamphey losing their games.

Llanrhian will look to put last week’s disappointment behind them as they host Stackpole.

A win for Llanrhian coupled with a Lamphey defeat or draw could still see them promoted.

Elsewhere, the bottom four sides play each other with one final relegation place to be decided.

Whitland seconds currently sit second from bottom and they travel to fourth from bottom Haverfordwest thirds.

A win for Whitland could move them above Town and if Llangwm also won that could see Town drop down a Division.

Llangwm seconds take on already relegated Lawrenny seconds. Llangwm sit eight points above Whitland and know anything other than a win could let Whitland go above them.

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Division 2: Narberth and Llechryd face off for title

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LLECHRYD will host Narberth on Saturday (Aug 24) with the winners being crowned champions of Division 2.

Both will be playing their cricket in Division 1 next season but the destination of the title will be decided on Saturday.

Going into the game, Llechryd sit top of the Division, 17 points ahead of Narberth. A home win will see Llechryd crowned champions but should Narberth take the win it will be they who go up as champions.

When the two teams met earlier in the season it was Narberth who came out on top with a seven wicket win.

With promotion and relegation decided there is little for the others to play for but some can still improve their final positions.

Pembroke sit third and on Saturday they are away to Kilgetty knowing if they slip up, Hook could claim third place if they beat Carew Seconds.

Relegated sides Johnston and Cresselly seconds will play each other at Glebelands with the winners earning their second win of the season.

Pembroke Dock also take on Haverfordwest seconds and a win for Town in that game will see them jump above the Dock.

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New Solva kit to continue Luke’s Stand Up To Cancer message

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THE family of inspirational cancer fundraising campaigner Luke Harding has donated a new kit to Solva AFC in his memory, which features four words that perfectly sum up the way he battled the illness – Stand Up To Cancer.

Luke, who played for Solva for around a decade, raised more than £30,000 for Withybush Hospital’s Ward 10 and local charities following his diagnosis with stage four lung cancer in 2016.

Medi George, Secretary of Solva AFC said: “Luke played football with the same dedication and energy with which he battled cancer and it is an honour for our club to be able to continue his message in this way.

“We are extremely grateful to Alex, Peter and the Harding family for this kind gesture and it is fitting that our players were able to wear the kit for the first time in the final of the first annual Luke Harding Memorial Cup.”

The kit was unveiled at Fishguard Sports’ ground before the final of the competition, with Goodwick United 2nds running out eventual 3-1 winners against Solva 2nds. The tournament also included Fishguard Sports and Letterston, which Luke also represented.

Ruth Amies, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Wales, said: “We are extremely grateful to Luke’s family and to Solva AFC for supporting Stand Up To Cancer which funds life-saving research in Wales and across the UK. The new kit is a wonderful tribute to Luke who fundraised tirelessly throughout his diagnosis and we are thrilled the players wore the new kit for the first time this week.”

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