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Wales Women look to end year on a high with autumn tests

The Wales team huddle

After a rollercoaster year for Wales Women both on and off the pitch, they will be determined to finish the year on a high when they host three sides in Cardiff this November.

A disappointing Women’s Six Nations campaign earlier this year was followed by the departure of head coach Warren Abrahams in July after less than nine months in charge.

Now interim coaching team Geraint Lewis and Ioan Cunningham will lead the side for their autumn matches against Japan, South Africa and Canada.

TIME FOR CHANGE

While the Welsh Rugby Union seek a permanent team boss, Lewis and Cunningham will hope they can revitalise the team ahead of the 2022 Women’s Six Nations.

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Lewis said: “It’s always a privilege to be involved with any international and adding coaches who are vastly experienced in professional rugby is already raising standards in training.

Ioan Cunningham

“We expect Japan to be a very fast, skilful side, while South Africa will provide a tough, physical challenge and Canada are a very athletic team and consistently one of the top sides in the world.”

All three matches will take place at Cardiff Arms Park as Wales take on Japan on the 7th November, followed by the Springboks on the 13th November and Canada on the 21st November.

THE CHALLENGE AHEAD

Japan will come into their match against Wales fresh off the news that they have qualified for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

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Coached by former Canadian international Lesley McKenzie, the Sakura Fifteen are ranked 12th in the world rankings, just one spot below Wales, and will also be facing Scotland and Ireland in a three-match European tour.

After taking on Japan, Wales will then host South Africa who are just two spots below them in the world rankings at 13th.

Wales' team huddle before the game

South Africa will hope for some strong performances ahead of a tough World Cup group next year under the guidance of coach Stanley Raubenheimer, having registered back-to-back Test wins over Kenya in August.

As well as their match in Cardiff, the Springboks will face France the week prior and also the Barbarians as part of a historic double header at Twickenham, and have announced a 33-strong squad.

Wales and South Africa last played in 2018, with Wales prevailing 19-5 on that occasion.

SAVING THE TOUGHEST UNTIL LAST

The toughest test will be the last match against Canada, who sit third in the world rankings.

Canadian head coach Sandro Fiorino announced a 32-strong squad for their Autumn matches, which will see them face USA twice and world no.1 England before concluding their series in Cardiff.

Canada haven’t played since November 2019 where they beat the US but have a good record against the Welsh, beating them 52-0 at the 2017 World Cup and 38-21 the following year.

But with the likes of wing superstar Jasmine Joyce and the talented fly-half/full-back Robyn Wilkins in the squad, Wales undoubtedly have the firepower to upset the odds against the Canadians.

And Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap is excited to be back playing once again, and in particular welcoming fans back to the stands for three blockbuster fixtures.

Lillicrap

She said: “As players, it’s been good to be back together. We are embracing what this coaching team is bringing to the group.

“We have a good blend of Autumn games to be excited about. They will challenge us and provide good preparation for the year ahead.

“It will be great to welcome supporters back to home games at the Arms Park. Many of our players have been making their presence known for their clubs recently and we want to show what we can do in front of a Welsh crowd.”

Wales Autumn Squad:

Forwards: Siwan Lillicrap (capt), Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Bethan Dainton, Kat Evans, Cerys Hale, Cara Hope, Gwen Crabb, Abbie Fleming, Georgia Evans, Natalia John, Madi Johns, Manon Johnes, Molly Kelly, Bethan Lewis, Robyn Lock, Liliana Podpadec, Gwenllian Pyrs, Donna Rose, Caryl Thomas

Backs: Keira Bevan, Leanne Burnell, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Jess Kavanagh, Courtney Keight, Kerin Lake, Caitlin Lewis, Ffion Lewis, Jade Mullen, Lisa Neumann, Elinor Snowsill, Niamh Terry, Flo Williams, Megan Webb, Robyn Wilkins