Six Nations Rugby | Wales: A year in review
A winless Women’s Six Nations was followed by the departure of coach Warren Abrahams after a short period in charge.
But a new coaching staff oversaw two of three wins in the fall, not to mention the announcement of professional contracts for the team.
With that in mind, let’s dig deeper into the highs and lows of 2021 in women’s rugby in Wales.
SIX NATIONS STRUGGLES
It’s fair to say that the start of the year has not gone as planned for Wales, who were hoping to get off to a quick start under new head coach Warren Abrahams.
The South African faced an intimidating opener, France in Vannes, and the scale of the task quickly became clear when Caroline Boujard netted a hat-trick in 15 minutes.
The Blues ultimately lost 53-0 in a one-sided affair, and a week later it was a similar story at home against Ireland as Wales lost 45-0.
This set up a play-off against Scotland for fifth place as that game turned out to be much closer. It was the Scots who triumphed at Scotstoun.
Scotland had three tries in the first half to lead 17-6 at the break, but Lisa Neumann’s scoring got Wales back in the game.
Evie Gallagher’s try did seal the game, but Wales at least had the last laugh with Caitlin Lewis passing around the corner in a 27-20 loss.
Abrahams left the Welsh squad this summer, after nine months of work, with Ioan Cunningham and Geraint Lewis taking over as interim coaches.
These positions have since been extended until the 2022 World Cup, and the the first signs were certainly promising in november.
After a closed-door clash with New Zealand, Wales kicked off their campaign by beating Japan impressively.
Jaz Joyce starred in the show, with the star of the seven scoring two tries in the 23-5 win, after skipper Siwan Lillicrap opened the ball rolling with an opening try in the opening two minutes.
A week later, it was Carys Phillips, starting for the first time in two years, who seized his opportunity. The hooker netted a hat-trick in a 29-19 win over South Africa, Ffion Lewis got the other and Wales scored two-on-two.
While Wales failed to score three of three points, coming down to Canada, ranked third in the world, 24-7, it was arguably their best performance of the fall.
Phillips scored in the first half as Wales led 7-0, with Canada losing skipper Olivia DeMarchant to a red card.
But in the second half, the North American class said they ran in four tries to secure the win despite a valiant defense from Wales.
Perhaps more importantly from a long-term perspective, the WRU has announced that there will be 25 contracts awarded, including ten professional contracts, as the Welsh women seek to close the gap with England and France in the Six Nations.
The WRU is also considering other measures to help develop women’s football. There is a lot of work to be done, but hopefully 2021 is a turning point for women’s football in Wales.