Wales continue to see positives despite English dominance

Wales concluded the Six Nations with a trips to France and Italy
©James Skeldon

Wales entered round three of the 2023 TikTok Women's Six Nations with big expectations and for good reason.

When they hammered Ireland in their opening match and followed that up with a classy away win over Scotland, there was a sense that Ioan Cunningham's side could cause the upset of the year and topple the reigning Grand Slam champions.

England’s last loss in the tournament came over five years ago and despite all of Wales’ pre-game expectations, they were swatted aside comfortably by the Red Roses.

Their second-half performance, where they ran in six tries in the space of half an hour, showed the coherence, intensity and quality that put Simon Middleton's side streets ahead of Wales on the day, and potentially the rest of the competition in the Six Nations.

However, even though England won heavily, Wales were very much in the game at half-time, particularly in the first 30 minutes.

They dominated the first two scrums of the match, made solid inroads into England’s defence and were denied a try on the 15-minute mark when Kelsey Jones, who is having a phenomenal Six Nations so far, had her pick-and-go marginally held up as she attempted to ground the ball.

Wales were blown away after half-time, but the opening exchanges demonstrated the huge strides that Welsh Rugby has made since making the women’s game professional.

Head coach Cunningham stressed that this team is making progress and shouldn’t be discouraged by the result and scoreline.

He said: “If you look at that first half and definitely the first 30 minutes, we showed physical dominance. I thought we were on top on territory and possession. We had three entries into their 22 and only three points and that’s the difference at this level.

"When they scored just before half-time, suddenly you go from conceding only two tries to three tries. The growth of the group has been massive and we’re definitely improving.

"Looking at how England have performed in the first two games and at their half-time scores, we’re the closest they have had. At half-time, we were in a very positive position. The scoreline probably doesn’t reflect the effort.

"We’re a tight group so we’ll look at the positives from this and look forward to the next challenge. France away is going to be an awesome atmosphere and something we’ll thrive on."

Last Saturday was a momentous day for women’s rugby. Earlier in the tournament, Wales had already smashed their attendance record in their opening game against Ireland with 4,962 fans watching their 31-5 victory.

But they nearly doubled that number on the weekend as 8,862 were in attendance at a sold-out Cardiff Arms Park.

Saturday’s match felt like a real milestone for women’s rugby in Wales and the squad are keen to harness that positivity in their final two outings against France and Italy.

On the attendance, captain Hannah Jones said: “It was brilliant. From where we’ve come when we hardly filled a
stadium and just had our friends and family there. All the support has been unreal."

"The intent and work rate from the girls was definitely there," Jones said as she reflected on the game. "We were pretty dominant in the first half. Now we’ll reflect and move on to the next game."

As for England, their quality shone through again and with many expecting them to beat Ireland this weekend, it looks like another Grand Slam will boil down to their clash with France in front of a record-breaking crowd at Twickenham on April 29th.