Se­lect side play­ing for pride – Hodges

South Wales Echo - - SPORT -

WALES take on Spain in Alicante to­day (1500GMT) in what is the first of two Women’s Six Na­tions warm-up matches for the visi­tors.

Fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful au­tumn – dur­ing which Wales notched up con­vinc­ing vic­to­ries against Scot­land and the UK Armed Forces – head coach Row­land Phillips has shown con­ti­nu­ity in his se­lec­tion for the meet­ing with Las Leonas this week­end.

“We’ve kept the spine of the squad CARDIFF Blues’ Premier­ship Se­lect side will look to re­store some pride as they play out the rest of their Bri­tish & Ir­ish Cup cam­paign.

They have lost all four of their games in Pool One so far but will hope to end that run against Jer­sey, who beat them 49-12 in the re­verse fix­ture, to­day at Merthyr’s The Wern (3pm).

Head coach Richard Hodges has re­tained just six play­ers from the nar­row loss to Ul­ster ‘A’ last month, in­clud­ing flanker Shane LewisHughes, who will cap­tain the side in Merthyr.

Dane Blacker will link-up with Pon­typridd part­ner Ben Jones at half-back, re­plac­ing Pele Cow­ley, while James Beal re­turns to the wing to re­place Kyle Evans.

Mean­while, out­side-half Jar­rod Evans re­turns to the bench fol­low­ing a nine-week lay-off with in­jury.

“The Bri­tish & Ir­ish Cup has been a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for the re­gion’s most promis­ing play­ers to gain valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and face tough op­po­si­tion,” said Hodges.

“We’ve been happy with el­e­ments of per­for­mances so far, and de­spite com­ing away with nar­row losses, we re­ally want to fin­ish the cam­paign on a high point.

“We are look­ing for­ward to play­ing up at The Wern.

“Merthyr have re­ally bought into the fix­ture, and we hope the lo­cal sup­port can give us a boost on the day.”

The best the Ospreys Premier­ship Se­lect side can hope for in Pool Three is to fin­ish as one of the best run­ners- from the au­tumn, whilst also giv­ing some new play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to put their hands up,” said Phillips, who has se­lected back row Kelsey Jones and wing Jas­mine Joyce among the re­place­ments. “These are play­ers we would have liked to have looked at late last year but didn’t get the chance to, so it’s good we’ve got the chance to take a look at them be­fore the Six Na­tions be­gins.

“We’re ap­proach­ing this week­end in up but they need to beat Cor­nish Pi­rates, who sit one point above them in se­cond, this af­ter­noon (2.30pm) to keep their slim hopes of qual­i­fi­ca­tion alive.

In Pool Five, the Drag­ons Premier­ship Se­lect side are in the same sit­u­a­tion as the Ospreys, but are four points be­hind se­cond-placed York­shire Carnegie. They travel to lead­ers Eal­ing Spain very much as a com­pet­i­tive train­ing camp, with a full-on train­ing ses­sion on Fri­day, so there cer­tainly won’t be any re­lax­ing go­ing into Satur­day’s game. We’re do­ing this with a view to putting play­ers un­der pres­sure and see­ing how they can im­ple­ment our struc­tures and game plans.”

Wales will travel to Dublin next Sun­day for their se­cond warm-up match, where they will face Ire­land at Don­ny­brook Sta­dium. to­day (3pm) with re­newed hope af­ter pick­ing up their first win of the com­pe­ti­tion against York­shire Carnegie in De­cem­ber.

The Scar­lets Premier­ship Se­lect travel to bot­tom side Richmond with the hope of mak­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals.

Only the group win­ners are guar­an­teed a place in the last eight and vic­tory would put the Scar­lets in the driv­ing seat ahead of their fi­nal-day clash against Not­ting­ham.

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