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Women’s Six Nations 2021: Wales ready to roar after year of change

Former captain Rachel Taylor resigned as a Wales coach for no reason last month

Conference location: Rabine Stadium Date: Saturday 3rd April Kicking off: 20:00 BST
Cover: Live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Sport website and app.

As the dust settles on the six nations of incredible men, we prepare to open the curtain on the women’s showpiece.

This year it will look and feel a little different as the Covid pandemic is delaying the start by two months and the tournament takes on a shortened format for 2021.

Wales begins its campaign against semi-professional France in Vanne.

It’s been more than a year since they last put on the red shirt against England. So don’t be surprised if Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau goes out of the race with additional excitement on Saturday.

Since that game at Twickenham, Wales’ players have not only endured three national suspensions but have also found the motivation to train alone in a cloud of uncertainty.

At the same time, they have seen coaches come and go, a return for some of the old guard and the biggest event on their calendar, which has been a year.

Let’s take a look back before a new chapter begins.

The trainers

Since Rowland Phillips’ sudden and still unexplained departure before the autumn internationals of 2019, there has been uncertainty about the coaching equipment.

The former Welsh hooker had led Wales to qualify for the postponed World Cup that summer, but the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) said at the time he would “take some time”.

Phillips’ exit was finally confirmed the following March, With the coaching trio of Gareth Wyatt, Chris Horsman and Geraint Lewis continue to take care of the team for the Six Nations 2020, in which Wales could not win a game.

They moved on as Performance Director that summer with former Welsh captain Ryan Jones.

Rowland Phillips with Wales teamFormer dual-code international Rowland Phillips took over the helm of Wales Women in 2016

Some stability arrived in November when Warren Abrahams has been named the new head coach. The former USA Women’s Sevens assistant coach made history when she became the WRU’s first black national coach.

Former skipper Rachel Taylor also made headlines when she became Wales’ first professional national coach, however she resigned last month without explanation, with Darren Edwards, who will take over her role at short notice.

At the time of her appointment, Taylor was talking about her “burning ambition to change things” and – much like Rowland Phillips’ situation – we don’t yet know what put that flame out.

Half the Welsh fly, Elinor Snowsill said the news surprised her: “I was disappointed because I grew up with Tayls.

“She was my captain and we all really look up to her, but that is what we have to deal with.

“You will always face challenges as a squad. We have a new psychologist who is brilliant at handling challenges, so we are now fully focused on the Six Nations.”

Former Ireland striker Sophie Spence will remain with the team that was interned at the Wales World Cup in December, as did Geraint Lewis as a striker.

Wales coach Warren Abrahams says new caps deserve a chance

The players

Siwan Lillicrap has done some colossal feats since taking over as captain in the fall of 2019 and keeps the armband under Abrahams, which gives the team leadership and stability.

Rowland’s former skipper and daughter Carys Phillips was dropped from the 2020 six-nation roster along with another standout player at Solved Harries.

The Worcester Warriors teammates, who had played more than 100 internationals, were briefed under the coaching trio of Wyatt, Horsman and Lewis that “the door is always open”, but it remained closed under their observation.

Sioned HarriesSolved Harries are hoping to extend their 58 caps for Wales

With a new pair of eyes, Abrahams added Phillips to his first training team to celebrate her club form in the Premier 15s, but she missed the Six Nations due to injury.

But there are still no signs of Harries who, at 31, believes she is still good enough to play for Wales.

On the Scrum V podcast, Harries said, “I’ve been through a lot of emotions with this.

“Frustration, anger, disappointment, but now I’ve got to a point where it’s a matter of controlling the controllable elements.

“I didn’t want it to be a focus of my season.”

In addition to Phillips’ roster, Abrahams has also brought back some of the old guard in the props Caryl Thomas (52 caps) and Shona Powell-Hughes (44 caps), who haven’t worn the shirt since the Rowland Phillips era.

Her return is complemented by the exciting young talents of Madi Johns, Beth Huntley and Sisilia Tuipulotu, who continue to learn their craft on the development team.

World Cup stroke

It was no great surprise that the peak of the women’s rugby calendar was reached was postponed last month, But it was no less disappointing for the players who had trained tirelessly with this goal in mind.

The 2021 Rugby World Cup was scheduled to take place in New Zealand from September 18 to October 16, but has been postponed to 2022, with the date not yet confirmed.

World Rugby cited travel risks, uncertainty about the teams’ ability to prepare and challenges in completing qualifications as reasons not to continue this year.

For some players, this means moving the goal posts even further, and for Alecs Donovan, it may have been a reason for their decision to close the chapter of their international career.

Black fernsWales had been drawn in the same pool as defending champions New Zealand at the World Cup

She had been inducted into Abraham’s roster earlier this year, but the 30-year-old admitted she was struggling to balance her yoga business with the demands of training.

“The commitment that we all show to play for our country will never be understood,” she wrote on her Instagram account.

“I’m always in awe of the passion to play in the squad, that we’re willing to give up promotions, potential families, friends, work, so much time and so much energy to play.

“A commitment that I have not yet questioned.”

The six nations in a new look

The 2020 Six Nations were incomplete when the country was first suspended, with Wales’ last game against Scotland being among the victims.

So this year’s tournament was very exciting but that had to be put on hold as the organizers decided to postpone the competition from February to April.

There were concerns about Covid testing, bubbles and travel, with England being the only fully professional side among the six teams involved.

The tournament will not only have a new start date, but also a new format that will be “unique” for this year.

It’s very similar to the men’s Autumn Nations Cup in that there are two pools of three teams, with Wales in pool B alongside France and Ireland.

In the final round of games on April 24th, teams will play against their equivalents in the other pool to determine final positions.

Hannah JonesWelsh center Hannah Jones is disappointed that there won’t be a full six nations this year

The new format brings both positives and negatives.

For the first time women are in the spotlight and do not have to compete with the men’s tournament.

This is something that the General Manager of Six Nations is Ben Morel says it can go on in the future.

It had its own start this week and all the games will be shown live on the BBC. Fans can even play Six Nations Fantasy Rugby for women for the first time.

But there are fewer games with the new format.

Central Wales’ Hannah Jones says: “From a player’s point of view it is disappointing that we don’t have the full tournament but on the other hand we can say that we are fortunate enough to play in a Covid world.”

Former Wales full-back Dyddgu Hywel was more critical.

she believes Women’s international rugby is treated unequally. with the men being able to play their Fall and Six Nations Tests as planned.

“They have a normal Six Nations this year, which is also good news, but why is the women’s game different or treated differently?” she said last month.

“We’re still talking about equality in sport and it’s 2021. We shouldn’t have this conversation and I really understand the Covid situation.

“It’s just a little disappointing.”

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