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Wales Women take no fear approach to France challenge

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WALES women will take on a “no fear” approach for their Six Nations opener with France on Saturday evening as head coach Rowland Phillips targets challenging the tournament’s elite.

A trip to Montpellier is a tough start for Wales, but a young squad is relishing the chance to play in front of a hostile crowd on the back of a successful autumn campaign.

Phillips’ side pushed a top-class Canada outfit all the way in November and also claimed victories over South Africa and Hong Kong. It all paints a positive picture for the team ahead of facing France.

“We came out of the autumn having moved our game on a bit. Our conditioning levels improved and on the whole, everything was just better,” said Phillips. “The skillset of the players also went up and if anything we’d have liked to have continued playing in November.

“When we came back in to start preparing for the Six Nations, the key thing for us was to pick that momentum back up and continue from where we left off at the end of last year. It feels like that is exactly what has happened.”

Meanwhile, Phillips has added two players to his squad ahead of the France clash. RGC’s Teleri Davies – who can play at lock or No 8 – bolsters the options. Davies made her Wales debut last season against Scotland and replaces a key figure in Sioned Harries who suffered an ankle injury in the Six Nations warm-up clash with Ireland which required surgery.

Uncapped Cardiff Blues prop Danielle Dinapoli comes in for Brea Leung who has been ruled out of the tournament due to a shoulder injury.

Wales captain and hooker Carys Phillips said: “France will be a very tough game, especially away from home. We have a lot of young players in our squad, but they are hungry for that challenge.

“I feel we have made a massive step forward from this time last year and I’m also really excited to play in front of a massive crowd. It will be an excellent experience all round.

“There is absolutely no fear in our squad and that’s brilliant for us.”

Rowland Phillips added: “France beat New Zealand in the autumn and that has made everyone sit up and take notice. We know France are strong anyway, but that result certainly lifted an eyebrow.

“The tournament will be game by game, but we need to measure ourselves by results as well as performances. That’s important for us. We want to reach the World Cup in two years with a young but experienced squad of players.

“The target for us is to move up the table. There are teams in the competition we have beaten before and beaten recently, so we need to be confident of our abilities.

“The Six Nations table always tends to split into two groups. We need to be in the first of those.”

On the prospect of facing Wales, France captain Gaelle Hermet said: “Our match against Wales is our first and therefore most important. They will come with great commitment and determination.

“Wales will want to beat us in Montpellier and it will be a very complicated match but one we will be ready for.”

Wales Women take on France at GGL Stadium, Montpellier on Saturday evening. The match will be shown live on S4C (8pm GMT) and on France Télévisions (9pm local time).

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.

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Alun Wyn Jones to lead Wales against England

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CAPTAIN Alun Wyn Jones returns to lead Wales against England in Cardiff on Saturday (Feb 23).

Jones will make his 122nd Welsh appearance, his 21st as captain, at Principality Stadium as the two remaining unbeaten teams in the Guinness Six Nations go head-to-head.

Jones will pack down with Cory Hill in the second row with Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty forming the back-row. A front-row of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis complete the forwards line-up.

Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe are named at half-back with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies partnering again in the midfield.  Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams make up the back-three.

“We are really happy with the experience we have got in the side,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

“We have been on the road for the first two weeks, we are looking forward to being back at home and to build on those first two wins and to build on our performance.

“We’ve had a great two week lead up to this game, we’ve looked really sharp and the squad are incredibly motivated to kick on.

“We know how important this game is for the rest of the championship.  It’s a massive challenge playing against an England team that is playing really well and with a lot of confidence and we’ve got to make it difficult for them on Saturday.

“We are looking forward to it and we know the Welsh fans are too and it’s going to be a huge weekend in the Six Nations.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Dillon Lewis provide Wales’ front-row replacements with Adam Beard and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies, Dan Biggar and Owen Watkin provide the backline cover.

Wales Team to play England – Saturday, February 23, KO 16.45 – BBC ONE & S4C

15. Liam Williams (53 Caps)

14. George North (80 Caps)

13. Jonathan Davies (70 Caps)

12. Hadleigh Parkes (12 Caps)

11. Josh Adams (8 Caps)

10. Gareth Anscombe (23 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (38 Caps)

1. Rob Evans (32 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (61 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (37 Caps)

4. Cory Hill (23 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (122 Caps) (CAPT)

6. Josh Navidi (13 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (61 Caps)

8. Ross Moriarty (28 Caps)

REPLACEMENTS:

16. Elliot Dee (15 Caps)

17. Nicky Smith (25 Caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (9 Caps)

19. Adam Beard (10 Caps)

20. Aaron Wainwright (5 Caps)

21. Aled Davies (13 Caps)

22. Dan Biggar (67 Caps)

23. Owen Watkin (10 Caps)

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Collins’ stunner earns win for Veterans

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A STUNNING strike from Hakin left back Adam Collins ensured that the Veteran Vikings earned maximum points and remain top of the Welsh Veterans League after a hard fought 4-3 win at home to Coedeva Athletic last Sunday (Feb 17).

However, on a very windy day, the Vikings found themselves behind early on as Gareth Hinwood scored from the penalty spot.

Hakin were soon level though, when Stuart MacDonald set up Matthew Price to score from close range.

Richard Nash gave Hakin the lead scoring via a deflection and Paul Andrews levelled matters for Coedeva before the break, as his shot from distance also took a deflection.

Early in the second half, Michael McCarthy beat the Coedeva keeper to a ball to make it 3-2 from close range and almost immediately, Coedeva were level after another Gareth Hinwood penalty.

Inside the final quarter, a stunning left footed strike from Adam Collins found the top corner from distance to give Hakin the win.

Hakin next play on Sunday, March 3, at home to Swansea University in the semi-final of the Welsh Veterans Cup.

Hakin United: Jason Morgan, Nigel Armstrong, Richard Bland, Nigel Delaney, Adam Collins, Shaun Mills, Richard Nash, Stuart MacDonald, Michael McCarthy, Matthew Price, Leighton Edwards. Subs: Leigh Walters, Simon Rocke, Jamie Phillips, Gary Dawes.

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Saints do the double

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ST CLEARS completed the double over Neyland as they earned a 4-0 win on Saturday (Feb 16).

The Saints, who were forced into a re-shuffle at the back and without one of their midfielders, had beaten them 5-2 at home the previous week and Neyland would have been looking for some revenge.

However, it was the Saints who started strongly and took a deserved lead from a short corner. Jonny Thomas found Steve Thomas unmarked in the box and he headed home.

Both teams had chances to score but Saints keeper James Dickson made a few good saves to keep their 1-0 lead in tact.

The visitors eventually got the second goal of the game following good individual play by Will Evans.

Evans then added his second directly from a free kick to make it 3-0. They then rounded off a good day as Sean Seymour Davies latched onto a long ball to score and make it 4-0.

On Saturday (Feb 23), Neyland are away to Goodwick while St Clears welcome Merlins Bridge.

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