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Wales Online
Wales Online
Katie Sands

Wales boss puts faith in team that stunned Ireland as he insists side can get even better in Six Nations

Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham has put his faith in the matchday 23 which pulled off a thrilling comeback win in Dublin last time out for this Saturday's Six Nations clash against Scotland (live on BBC Two).

The former Scarlets forwards coach has named an unchanged matchday squad for the TikTok Six Nations clash on Saturday, April 2, at Cardiff Arms Park (4.45pm kick-off). Wales - now playing with 12 professional and 12 semi-professional players in their ranks - will be full of confidence after a final-quarter turnaround to beat Ireland 27-19 in Dublin with a bonus point, while visitors Scotland will be bidding to give a much stronger account of themselves than their 57-5 defeat to reigning champions England would suggest.

The match is set to attract a record crowd for a standalone women's rugby international in Wales.

Cunningham believes the side which ended Wales' seven-game Six Nations losing streak deserve the chance to go again at home. Kayleigh Powell starts at full-back with Jasmine Joyce and Lisa Neumann on the wings, Elinor Snowsill and Keira Bevan are the half-backs and Hannah Jones and Kerin Lake continue their partnership at centre. As for the forwards, Gwenllian Pyrs, Carys Phillips and Cerys Hale form a solid front row while Natalia John packs down in the second row alongside Gwen Crabb. In the back row, player of the match Alisha Butchers starts alongside fellow flanker Alex Callender and No. 8 Siwan Lillicrap, who captains the side.

Last weekend's outing showed the importance and strength in depth throughout Wales' bench, and they will be hoping to make another big impact late on in this weekend's fixture. Kelsey Jones, Cara Hope, Donna Rose, Sioned Harries, Bethan Lewis and Sisilia Tuipulotu provide forward cover, with the replacements completed by scrum-half Ffion Lewis and fly-half Robyn Wilkins.

As for Scotland, head coach Bryan Easson has made four changes to the side which lost against England. Hooker Lana Skeldon will win her 50th cap while Emma Orr is set to make her debut. Shona Campbell is handed a first start having impressed off the bench against England while Sarah Bonar returns after missing the opening game due to RAF commitments.

"We have a number of players unavailable for selection this week due to illness and Covid," Easson said. "However, we have some exciting young players amongst the squad and it's hugely important to give those players opportunities to experience Test match rugby against some formidable opponents, particularly in a World Cup year."

Wales and Scotland, who recently qualified for the World Cup in New Zealand this autumn, go head to head in the World Cup pool stages on October 9 so will be looking to lay down a marker in Cardiff this weekend.

Wales are hoping for a record crowd to turn out at the Arms Park, with more than 3,000 tickets already sold. The Welsh record for a standalone women's international rugby match is thought to be their 2017 clash against England, attended by 4,113 people. Each championship match in the opening round saw a record crowd turn out at the weekend.

Wales boss Cunningham said: "The selection certainly rewards the team’s performance last weekend. Those players deserve another chance to perform and express themselves in front of their family, friends, and a big home crowd on Saturday. We saw some huge performances across the park from Donna Rose’s two tries to Hannah Jones’ score that finished off the game and Alisha Butchers winning player of the round.

"We want to grow some consistency within combinations and we will be challenging those players to back up last week’s performance with one eye on how we will need to prepare during the Rugby World Cup. We are in no way underestimating Scotland. They are a tough team and have grown cohesion having spent a lot of time together during their campaign to qualify for the World Cup. Their score line against England didn’t reflect their performance and they will come down looking to bounce back. We are expecting a tough challenge but one we are looking forward to."

Cunningham insists his Wales team can improve further, particularly around discipline. "There is always room for improvement. We also want to finish strongly again – and that needs a real intensity, both physically and mentally, something we showed last Saturday," he added. "We’d love to have a really big crowd to get behind the team, that would be awesome, it would give the players a real boost. And we want to produce a performance that inspires the next generation."

Tickets for Wales Women’s home Tik Tok Women’s Six Nations matches are on sale now and are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for under-16s.

Wales: 15. Kayleigh Powell, 14. Lisa Neumann, 13. Hannah Jones, 12. Kerin Lake, 11. Jasmine Joyce, 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Keira Bevan, 1. Gwenllian Pyrs, 2. Carys Phillips, 3. Cerys Hale, 4. Natalia John, 5. Gwen Crabb, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Alex Callender, 8. Siwan Lillicrap (capt).

Replacements: 16. Kelsey Jones, 17. Cara Hope, 18. Donna Rose, 19. Sioned Harries, 20. Bethan Lewis, 21. Ffion Lewis, 22. Robyn Wilkins, 23. Sisilia Tuipulotu.

Scotland: 15. Shona Campbell, 14. Rhona Lloyd, 13. Emma Orr, 12. Lisa Thomson, 11. Megan Gaffney, 10. Helen Nelson, 9. Jenny Maxwell, 1. Leah Bartlett, 2. Lana Skeldon, 3. Christine Belisle, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Sarah Bonar, 6. Rachel Malcolm (capt), 7. Evie Gallagher, 8. Jade Konkel.

Replacements: 16. Jodie Rettie, 17. Panashe Muzambe, 18. Katie Dougan, 19. Lyndsay O’Donnell, 20. Louise McMillan, 21. Caity Mattinson, 22. Meryl Smith, 23. Coreen Grant.

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