Women’s Six Nations: Wales remain winless but encouraging signs – BBC News

Caitlin Lewis celebrates a try
Wales wing Caitlin Lewis celebrates a late try against Scotland

It was two winless sides battling to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

But the fifth-place play-off proved a fitting finale to the 2021 Women’s Six Nations, with Scotland edging Wales 27-20 in an energetic and entertaining affair.

For Scotland it was a first Six Nations win at Scotstoun, while for Wales it was a welcome sign of things to come under new management.

It has been a torrid tournament for Warren Abrahams’ young side, with confidence appearing at an all-time low after conceding 15 tries in their opening two games and failing to score a single point.

The heavy 53-0 defeat was almost expected against semi-professional France, but tears were shed after their 45-0 thumping on home turf against Ireland, which condemned them to an eighth successive loss.

At the same time the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) was left to fend off criticism over the way it runs the women’s game.

But Abrahams, who has been Wales head coach since November, said he was proud of the way the players dusted themselves off after an “incredibly difficult couple of weeks” and for coming away from Scotland with 20 points on the board.

Abrahams said it was a risk making nine starting changes with Wales yet to register a single point in the tournament’s shortened format, but it was one he thought paid off.

“It was an incredible blend out there, you could see the true identity of what we’re trying to build,” he told BBC Sport Wales.

Wales were led by centre Hannah Jones and like usual skipper Siwan Lillicrap – out injured – gave a colossal performance in the Glasgow sunshine.

Jones also put her hand up for Team GB sevens selection for this summer’s Olympics, alongside Jasmine Joyce who hopes Tokyo will be her second Games after Rio 2016.

Joyce gave Wales the spark that had been missing during the Ireland defeat. Positioned at full-back as opposed to the wing, she lit up the field in attack while putting in try-saving tackles on players twice her size.

There was also an encouraging first Six Nations start for teenage scrum-half Megan Davies, while Robyn Wilkins looked much more at home in her usual position of fly-half, preferred this week to Elinor Snowsill.

The tournament also saw an impressive introduction to the international scene for prop Donna Rose, while there was a welcome return to the set-up for the experienced heads of Caryl Thomas and Shona Powell-Hughes.

But Wales’ Achilles heel remains the set piece, especially at the lineout, but they will be boosted in that area when hooker and former captain Carys Phillips returns from injury.

Reflecting on his first campaign with Wales, Abrahams said: “I’m very proud of this group.

“I got a little bit emotional [after the Scotland game] because of the sacrifice, time and effort they put in.”

And with the average age this week just over 21, Abrahams admits it is an “exciting team” with the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand just a year away.

“We just demonstrated what potential there is to come, we’ve just got to keep believing in ourselves,” he said.

Abrahams also defended the WRU after the Union was accused of not investing enough into women’s rugby and not having sufficient pathways for their development.

“Always we point the finger to the WRU, but there are some incredible people who are really invested in the programme and want to help us,” he said.

“Our CEO Steve Phillips and chairman Rob Butcher have been in and around the environment, so there’s a lot of support.

“Most importantly we’ve seen over the last few years that we’ve got to get an infrastructure in the best possible place so we can be competitive at the highest level.”

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