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Cunningham names seven uncapped players in Wales squad for the Guinness Women's Six Nations

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 21: Wales line up for the national anthem during the WXV1 match between Canada and Wales at Sky Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Ioan Cunningham has named seven uncapped players in his 37-player squad for the Guinness Women’s Six Nations.

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While the majority of the squad is made up of familiar faces from last year’s Six Nations and WXV 1, Jenny Hesketh, Cath Richards, Molly Reardon, Jenni Scoble, Gwennan Hopkins, Mollie Wilkinson and Sian Jones will all be in contention to earn their first Test caps in this year’s competition.

Full-back Hesketh previously captained England U20s and currently plays for Bristol Bears alongside Wilkinson. They join club teammates Courtney Keight, Gwenllian Pyrs, Bryonie King, Kayleigh Powell, Alisha Butchers, and Keira Bevan in the national squad.

Fellow West Country outfit and defending Premiership Women’s Rugby champions Gloucester-Hartpury have 12 players in Cunningham’s squad, including Hannah Jones, who has been named captain.

There are 16 players included in the squad who represented Celtic Challenge teams Brython Thunder and Gwalia Lightning, who finished third overall this season, including four of the uncapped players.

Among the 30 returning players, Natalia John and Gwen Crabb feature in the squad after returning from injuries that saw them miss out on the inaugural WXV 1 competition last autumn.

In addition, Shona Wakley, who represented Brython Thunder in the Celtic Challenge, returns to the squad with hopes to build on the 45 caps she has earned since her debut in 2010.

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This year’s Six Nations campaign will see Wales women play their first-ever standalone Six Nations fixture at the Principality Stadium when they face Italy on the final weekend (27th April).

In the previous edition of the Women’s Six Nations, Wales finished third to seal the final remaining place in WXV 1 that was available from the tournament.

Once again this year, the top three teams at the end of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations will join the top three teams from the Pacific Four Series in WXV 1, which will take place in Canada later in the year.

The fourth and fifth placed teams at the end of this year’s Six Nations will play in WXV 2, won by Scotland last year, while sixth place will take part in a playoff with the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship to determine whether they take place in WXV 2 or WXV 3 in 2024.

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Last year, Wales reached their highest-ever place in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini at sixth.

Wales will play Scotland on the opening weekend (23rd March) at Cardiff Arms Park before going on to face England at Ashton Gate (30th March), Ireland at Virgin Media Park (13th April), and France at Cardiff Arms Park (21st April) before their historic finale at the Principality Stadium.

Cunningham said: “This was the hardest squad to select since the game went professional in 2022 and there was plenty of debate within the coaching group around selection.

“This 2024 Six Nations campaign promises to be the biggest and toughest tournament so far but we are all excited to see the players named set new standards and take this team to new heights.

“The Welsh public’s support proved massive for the squad last season and a first stand-alone game against Italy in Principality Stadium is a mouthwatering end to the campaign, but we know we have some major challenges ahead of us before we get to that final weekend.

“We have named a squad full of proven experience at international rugby and a mix of exciting young talent we have seen emerge at club and Wales U20s level, especially through the new expanded Celtic Challenge tournament.

“The bulk of the squad played in WXV1 in New Zealand and have the experience of playing in a tournament for the best six teams in the world. We have named seven uncapped players who have impressed for their clubs so far this season.

“Jenny Hesketh and Cath Richards have impressed with their performances in the Premiership and Molly Reardon, Jenni Scoble, Gwennan Hopkins, Mollie Wilkinson and Sian Jones have done the same in the Celtic Challenge.

“We welcome back Welsh international Shona Wakley and her performances demonstrate that the door is always open for selection if a player’s performances warrant it. All the players, coaches and staff are excited to meet the challenge of a new Six Nations campaign.”

Wales Women’s Six Nations squad

Forwards: Gwenllian Pyrs, Abbey Constable, Carys Phillips, Kelsey Jones, Molly Reardon, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Donna Rose, Jenni Scoble, Abbie Fleming, Natalia John, Gwen Crabb, Bryonie King, Shona Wakley, Alisha Butchers, Georgia Evans, Alex Callender, Kate Williams, Bethan Lewis, Gwennan Hopkins

Backs: Jasmine Joyce, Nel Metcalfe, Jenny Hesketh, Courtney Keight, Kayleigh Powell, Cath Richards, Lisa Neumann, Amelia Tutt, Hannah Jones (captain), Kerin Lake, Hannah Bluck, Carys Cox, Lleucu George, Mollie Wilkinson, Niamh Terry, Keira Bevan, Sian Jones, Meg Davies.

Five Development players – Hanna Marshall, Seren Singleton, Maisie Davies, Cadi-Lois Davies and Alaw Pyrs – have been invited to train with the squad.

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