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Wales centre Kerin Lake to reach half century in WXV play-off against Spain

By Martyn Thomas
PARMA, ITALY - APRIL 29: Kerin Lake of Wales looks to pass the ball 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)

Kerin Lake will win her 50th Test cap when Wales take on Spain in their WXV play-off at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.

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The match will determine which of the teams competes in WXV 2 in South Africa this September and October, with the loser playing in the third level in Dubai.

As the top six non-qualified nations at the end of WXV 2024 will secure their place at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025, and eight of the 12 teams in the top two levels have already qualified, the victor will also be sure of a ticket to England 2025.

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It means the stakes could not be higher in Cardiff and Wales coach Ioan Cunningham has opted for a mix of experience and youth as the hosts target only their second victory in their last nine matches.

Lake, who made her Wales debut against Scotland in 2011, will line up at inside centre alongside her Gloucester-Hartpury club-mate Hannah Jones, who is set to captain the team for the 21st time.

The centres are joined in the starting XV by fellow Premiership Women’s Rugby winners Lleucu George, Sisilia Tuipulotu and Bethan Lewis, while Abbey Constable and Kate Williams have been named among the replacements.

Wales were resigned to contesting the play-off due to their wooden spoon finish in this year’s Guinness Women’s Six Nations, in which they won only one match.

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Spain, meanwhile, head into the match as Rugby Europe Women’s Championship winners and won the most recent meeting between the sides, claiming a 29-5 victory in Madrid in 2019.

Fixture
Women's Internationals
Wales Women's
52 - 20
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Spain Women
All Stats and Data

“We know what we have to do – victory means World Cup qualification for England 2025 and qualification for WXV2 in South Africa in September,” Cunningham said.

“The focus all of this week has been on what we need to do and how we are going to play, and making sure we have the detail in our game right. We need to play with tempo and know Spain will view this vital game as a way to make a statement.

“We need to build on the win in our final game of the Guinness Six Nations against Italy and have selected the bulk of the team who delivered on that day. We know Spain have prepared with two warm-up games against Canada A and will pose a real challenge.

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“Kerin Lake will win her 50th cap for her country and she is a popular and respected figure in the squad and the players will want to put in a performance to celebrate her achievement at international level.”

Spain, meanwhile, have made nine changes to the team that ended the Rugby Europe Women’s Championship with a 48-0 victory against Sweden in April.

Gloucester-Hartpury prop Laura Delgado returns to captain the side from the front row and is joined in the pack by club-mate Carmen Castellucci.

Flanker Abel Capell, scrum-half Lucía Díaz, centres Zahía Pérez and Alba Vinuesa, winger Clara Piquero and full-back Claudia Peña keep their places from the win in Trelleborg two months ago that secured a seventh successive European crown.

Saturday’s match is available to stream live and for free via RugbyPass TV globally, except in the UK and Ireland.

Wales: 15. Jenny Hesketh 14. Lisa Neumann 13. Hannah Jones (captain) 12. Kerin Lake 11. Carys Cox 10. Lleucu George 9. Keira Bevan 1. Gwenllian Pyrs 2. Carys Phillips 3. Sisilia Tuipulotu 4. Abbie Fleming 5. Georgia Evans 6. Alisha Joyce-Butchers 7. Alex Callender (vice-captain) 8. Bethan Lewis

Replacements: 16. Molly Reardon 17. Abbey Constable 18. Donna Rose 19. Kate Williams 20. Gwennan Hopkins 21. Sian Jones 22. Robyn Wilkins 23. Courtney Keight

Spain: 15. Claudia Peña 14. Claudia Pérez 13. Alba Vinuesa (vice-captain) 12. Zahía Pérez 11. Clara Piquero 10. Amelia Argudo 9. Lucía Díaz 1. Inés Antolínez 2. Marieta Román 3. Laura Delgao (captain) 4. Mónica Castelo 5. Lourdes Alameda 6. Nerea García 7. Alba Capell 8. Carmen Castellucci

Replacements: 16. Nuria Jou 17. María del Castillo 18. Sidorella Bracic 19. Anna Puig 20. María Calvo 21. Lía Piñeiro 22. Maider Aresti 23. Martina Márquez

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