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Wales and Scotland name sides for Six Nations opening round clash in Cardiff

PARMA, ITALY - APRIL 29: Alex Callender of Wales guides a maul during the TikTok Women's Six Nations match between Italy and Wales at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on April 29, 2023 in Parma, Italy. (Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images)

Ioan Cunningham and Bryan Easson have named their sides for their Six Nations clash on 23rd March at Cardiff Arms Park.

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Two debuts are on the cards for the home side as former England under-20s captain Jenny Hesketh makes her first appearance in a Welsh shirt, while Sian Jones will make her debut if used from the bench.

Jasmine Joyce returns from GB Sevens to start on the wing, and Natalia John returns from injury to start at lock. Hannah Jones remains as captain, starting at outside centre, while Alex Callender is named as vice-captain in the back row.

“There was much debate around this selection and that demonstrates the strength in depth we are now building in the squad,” Cunningham said.

“The players have been working really hard and pushing each other since we have been in camp, and we are looking forward to the challenge of Scotland in Cardiff.

“Test matches against Scotland have traditionally been close and tight affairs and we are expecting the same on Saturday.

“Jenny Hesketh has impressed on and off the field, since she joined up with us and fully deserves to make her Wales debut. Sian Jones was one of the standout players in the Celtic Challenge and we know how much she is looking forward to pulling on the red jersey and representing her country.

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“It’s great to see Natalia John back and all of us know how hard she has worked to get back in the side after being sidelined since the last Six Nations campaign. Her resilience has been an inspiration to all of the squad, coaches and staff.

“The support of the Welsh public proved key when we are at the Arms Park during last season’s campaign and all the players are excited to be back in the Welsh capital.”

Scotland also have a debutant in their ranks for the opening round as Alex Stewart, who impressed for Edinburgh during the Celtic Challenge, earns her first cap at openside flanker.

Stewart is the only change to the otherwise identical pack who were victorious over Japan in Scotland’s WXV 2 finale with Rachel McLachlan moving to the bench to accommodate the new addition to the forwards.

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Rachel Malcolm continues as captain while retaining her starting position in the back row, and is supported by fellow Loughborough Lightning player Helen Nelson, who is given the vice-captaincy role and starts at fly-half.

Lisa Thompson, who along with Donna Kennedy and Francesca McGhie had sustainable statues of themselves unveiled by Scottish Rugby in Edinburgh as part of a celebration of trailblazers in women’s rugby ahead of the tournament, returns from GB Sevens to start at centre.

Thompson said: “It’s pretty surreal to have a statue of yourself, but it’s an honour to have been recognised alongside Donna and Fran. Unveiling these just before the start of the Guinness Six Nations is amazing and I can’t wait to see our fans’ reactions when they see them at Hive Stadium, and hopefully, we can inspire the next generation of trailblazers.”

Fellow GB Sevens stars Rhona Lloyd and Shona Campbell re-enter the fold to represent Scotland at 15s and will face familiar face Joyce as opposition rather than a teammate in Cardiff.

Wales team:

15. Jenny Hesketh
14. Jasmine Joyce
13. Hannah Jones
12. Kerin Lake
11. Nel Metcalfe
10. Lleucu George
9. Keira Bevan;
1. Gwenllian Pyrs
2. Kelsey Jones
3. Sisilia Tuipulotu
4. Natalia John
5. Abbie Fleming
6. Alisha Butchers
7. Alex Callender
8. Bethan Lewis.

Replacements:
16. Carys Phillips
17. Abbey Constable
18. Donna Rose
19. Georgia Evans
20. Kate Williams
21. Sian Jones
22. Niamh Terry
23. Carys Cox

Scotland team:

15. Meryl Smith
14. Rhona Lloyd
13. Emma Orr
12. Lisa Thomson
11. Coreen Grant
10. Helen Nelson
9. Caity Mattinson
1. Leah Bartlett
2. Lana Skeldon
3. Christine Belisle
4. Emma Wassell
5. Sarah Bonar
6. Rachel Malcolm
7. Alex Stewart
8. Evie Gallagher

Replacements:

16. Elis Martin
17. Molly Wright
18. Elliann Clarke
19. Louise McMillan
20. Rachel McLachlan
21. Mairi McDonald
22. Shona Campbell
23. Chloe Rollie

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