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THE HERALD FRIDAY JANUARY 27 2017


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71 Sport Looking ahead to the RBS Six Nations Women’s Six Nations squad named


Gareth Charles: ‘I’m looking forward to this year’s Six Nations more than usual’


WITH THE BRITISH and Irish


Lions touring New Zealand in 2017, there is more excitement than ever surrounding this year’s RBS Six Nations, according to Clwb Rygbi Rhyngwladol commentator Gareth Charles. S4C is the only broadcaster


showing every Wales match in the RBS Six Nations this year, and the experienced commentator is a key member of the presentation team. Gareth, who comes from Pont-Henri in the Gwendraeth Valley, will be accompanied by former Wales captain Gwyn Jones in the commentary box, while former international players Shane Williams, Andrew Coombs, Dafydd Jones, Nicky Robinson and Deiniol Jones will join presenter Gareth Rhys Owen during the Championship. S4C will also be showing two of


Wales Under 20s’ matches live, as well as the women’s team match against Ireland. Highlights of the women’s team matches will also be shown on Clwb2 on Sunday nights. With the Six Nations fast


approaching, S4C recently caught up with Gareth to get his take on this year’s competition.


S4C: “With Gatland away with


the Lions, Rob Howley taking his place and Alun-Wyn Jones taking over the captaincy from Sam Warburton, the Wales team is going through a transitional period. How will this affect them in the RBS Six Nations?”


Gareth Charles: “There’s a lot of


pressure on Wales and Rob Howley to change to a more open style of rugby. With Wales playing against Italy in the first game and with bonus points being introduced this year, there’s pressure to get off to a good start – even though, traditionally, Wales start slowly every year.”


S4C: “Who are the favourites to win this year?”


GC: “I’d say England. The


progress they’ve made under Eddie Jones is phenomenal. They play good


rugby and they have so much depth. But Ireland aren’t far behind after their historic recent win over the All Blacks, so they will certainly be a threat to England.”


S4C: “Which players are you looking forward to seeing this year?”


GC: “For Wales, Taulupe Faletau,


on his day, is certainly one of the best players in the world. England have Maro Itoje in the second row and Jonathan Joseph in centre, who always creates problems for Wales. Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg always have a big influence for Scotland too. It’s a Lions’ year, so I think that will bring out the best in everyone.”


S4C: “Considering all these new


factors – the Lions and bonus points – how much are you looking forward to this year’s competition?”


GC: “I’m looking forward to this


year’s Six Nations more than usual. I’m looking forward to the women’s competition and seeing how they get on at their new home, Cardiff Arms Park, and I will be commentating on their match against Ireland. I’ll also be commentating on the Under 20s matches, and there is always a good atmosphere at Eirias Park for those games. Although I have to say that I’m also looking forward to following the men’s team to Rome and Paris.”


S4C: “Which Five Nations or Six


Nations memories stand out in your mind?”


GC: “Obviously the match when


Scott Gibbs scored that unforgettable try in Wembley will stay with me forever. The game where we put 30 points on England in Cardiff, in 2013, was also a fantastic occasion. It seems that victories over England are the ones that stand out the most. Of course, the other match I remember fondly is the win against Ireland which secured the Grand Slam in Cardiff, in 2005, under Mike Ruddock. I’d never seen such crowds of people in the city and it was a brilliant day.”


WALES WOMEN have today


announced their 32-player squad for the upcoming Women’s Six Nations. Head coach Rowland Phillips


finalised his selection after yesterday’s victory against Ireland at Donnybrook – a result which means Wales Women have now won four from four since Phillips took charge in 2016. Phillips says that cutting down


a squad of approximately 50 players was a difficult task. “It’s always tough when it comes to selections, because everybody has been working so hard over the past few months,” he said. “There were plenty of tough calls, but I’m confident of the process we went through to get to this point.” Included in the squad are players


recently identified in the regional programme, such as forwards Morfudd Ifans, Brea Leung and Gwenllian Pyrs, whilst players returning to the set-up after a short


break include centre Rebecca de Filippo and front row Lowri Harries. Since the autumn, Wales Women


have recorded wins against Scotland, the UK Armed Forces, Spain and Ireland. Whilst he is pleased with the results on the scoreboard, Phillips insists that he and his assistant coaches, Nick Wakely and Paul Young, have been focused on improving the team’s overall performance. “We’re fully aware of what the


past four games have been about,” says Phillips. “The results are an added bonus. The real thing for us was for the players to understand the physicality and intensity of top teams, and they certainly experienced it yesterday against Ireland.” Ireland, ranked fifth in the world,


gave Wales Women plenty to think about, according to Phillips: “They are a quality side, with a lot of very good players. The first 25 minutes or so we were completely under the


cosh. But what evolved after that was that we got to terms with the intensity, and by the end of the game we were comfortably playing at that level.” Now Phillips wants his squad to


focus on the next challenge – 'with feet firmly on the ground' – with Wales set to face Italy away first up in the Women’s Six Nations. Supporters can then look forward to two huge home matches at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park against England (February 11) and Ireland (March 11) – something Phillips expects to be a fantastic occasion in the capital. “Those two home games are


significant for us as far as standard of opposition goes,” he said. “We’re hosting the world champions and Ireland, who showed us yesterday what a threat they are across the park. It’s going to be a huge competition for us, and we saw throughout the autumn how big a difference the home support made.”


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