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Four Players Named In Wales Women Team To Face Italy

Wales Women head coach Rowland Phillips has named his team for this Saturday's opening Women's Six Nations match against Italy in Ancona (KO 14:00 GMT).

Seven players remain in the starting line-up from last year's team that took on Italy at the Talbot Athletic Ground, including captain and hooker Carys Phillips and openside Rachel Taylor.

Since taking charge of the team, along with assistant coaches Nick Wakley and Paul Young, Wales Women have won all four of their past four fixtures - including victories against upcoming opponents Ireland and Scotland.

Phillips believes that, thanks to a rigorous schedule and fixture list implemented in the latter part of 2016, his team is now more ready for top-flight international competition. "We're definitely prepared," says Phillips. "Our progress to this point has been excellent. There are going to be big challenges ahead, and Italy is as big as any for us, but we'll grow as a squad for that."

On the subject of his consistent selection policy - all 23 players have featured regularly in the past four matches - Phillips underlines the performance-related nature of his squad.

"There is consistency, but the players are aware there's strong competition for places," says the head coach, "and their performances are driven by that. They've been rewarded for continuing to push themselves to keep hold of their jerseys."

More familiar with Italian rugby than many, having coached Aironi and Viadana, Phillips commends the strength of the Azzurre: "They're very, very good, but the focus for us is really on ourselves. We've been improving our in-game management, which was evidenced in our game against Ireland a couple of weeks ago in Dublin, but we have to ensure we get our game right this Saturday."