Five Cardiff Blues players have been selected in the Wales Women matchday squad for the Six Nations opener against Italy on Sunday (KO 1.00pm).
Chris Horsman’s side will play all their home games during the campaign at Cardiff Arms Park, starting with Sunday’s encounter.
Prop Cerys Hale and outside half Robyn Wilkins have been named in the starting XV against the Azzurri, as a further three Cardiff Blues stars feature on the bench in the form of Georgia Evans, Manon Johnes and Paige Randall.
Number eight, Siwan Lillicrap, captains the side for the campaign, while Cardiff Blues Community Foundation’s Kelsey Jones, who plays for Ospreys, is given the nod in the number two jersey.
Head coach and former Wales interational, Horsman, said: “There was debate and competition around every position in the selection meeting, which is exactly what we want
“We set out to develop strength in depth during the autumn and those games really gave us a chance to look at the group with the 2021 Rugby World Cup in mind.
“There was a case for every player to be involved in some way but we feel this matchday squad is the best placed to make the most of the opportunity this weekend. As in the autumn, we want to go out and perform in every game, improving all the time.
“Italy has always been a key match for us and this Sunday will be no different.
“It will be a tough game with no hiding place. We have asked a lot of the players, increasing the intensity of training and they’ve met the challenge head on. The aim of that is not only to perform under pressure during the Six Nations but also, longer term, to close the gap on teams above us in the world rankings.
“We are concentrating on ourselves and this week, not looking beyond the challenge of Italy on Sunday.”
Wales Women: Kayleigh Powell; Jasmine Joyce, Hannah Jones, Kerin Lake, Lisa Neumann; Robyn Wilkins, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hale, Natalia John, Gwen Crabb, Alex Callender, Bethan Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap (capt)
Replacements: Molly Kelly, Cara Hope, Ruth Lewis, Georgia Evans, Alisha Butchers, Manon Johnes, Ffion Lewis, Paige Randall