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Wales women aim to step up again

WALES Women captain Siwan Lillicrap has challenged her team to “go to another level” and complete an autumn clean sweep against Canada on Sunday.

No 8 Lillicrap has skippered Wales to back-to-back victories over Japan and South Africa so far this November. Canada – ranked third in World Rugby’s women’s rankings – are their last opponents.

After a 23-5 win over Japan in their first game, Wales faced a daunting six-day turnaround for their second match with South Africa. It was a challenge they passed with flying colours.

A 29-19 victory was achieved thanks to a hat-trick of tries from hooker Carys Phillips in what was her first Test in the red of Wales for two years. Scrum-half Ffion Lewis also crossed while Elinor Snowsill kicked three conversions and a penalty. “We absolutely dominated the first 20 minutes against South Africa,” Lillicrap said.

“The most encouraging thing for me was the performance and how we ground out the win.

“There were maybe opportunities we didn’t take, but we are still new to this journey and there were some very good individual performances. We’ve got the results and we’ll go again for this week.

“It’s exciting to see what we can work on for Canada. “It was a physical performance against South Africa, we worked hard, and put our bodies on the line. “We’ve made a huge improvement and a huge step-up.

“All the girls have got smiles on their faces, but the most important thing is we can get better and that’s exciting. We’re just going to get better and better every week.

“Carys threw well and for her third try especially she fronted up to get over the line. She played really well. Carys really delivered much-needed physicality to the side and was a deserved player of the match.

“Credit to her for that. Canada is going to be a different test altogether. We’re probably looking at a combination of the physicality of South Africa and the work rate and execution of Japan.

“We’ve got to go to another level of performance. Our big work on is executing the opportunities we create. South Africa was a big win for us.

“We have gone two years without a win so to have two on the bounce in less than six days is very positive. The way we start games now on the front foot is a huge improvement on where we’ve been before. I’m excited for another challenge and how we can build from here.

“This campaign is going to be hugely valuable for us.

“Now I’m excited to see what we can do against the third best team in the world. It’s going to be a challenge but the sort of challenge we want as a squad.”

Reflecting on the South Africa win, Phillips said: “To be fair, it’s one hell of a feeling.

“It’s been a long two years and to come back to that intensity was tough, but fair play to the girls they put in a hell of a shift.

“South Africa are a tough team and we got the win in the end so it’s happy days. It’s good to be part of this squad, there’s a lot of competition and we’re ready to step up again against Canada.”

Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham has recorded victories in his first two games in charge.

He will lead the team at next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand where Wales will face the hosts and Australia in the pool stages. Before that is the 2022 Women’s Six Nations.

“The most pleasing thing about Saturday’s win over South Africa is that we know we can make further improvements in our performance. We created opportunities but we didn’t convert them all into points despite having the lion’s share of territory and possession. That is something we can improve this week.

“Canada is going to be a tough challenge. They are a very good team and well structured. They are well coached and will be the toughest team we’ve faced so far,” Cunningham said.

“They have some exceptional athletes and combine the strengths of both Japan and South Africa. It’s a game we’re really looking forward to. It’s going to be a step-up and we are going to be tested, but what we’re striving for is to play against the best teams.

“It will be a big step for us on our journey to the World Cup. We’re not going to shy away from the opportunity to play the best teams because the more often we play them, the better we’ll get.”