Wales go into the final round of Six Nations games this weekend knowing that a point is all that is needed to secure a second successive third place finish.
For all intents and purposes that is top of the table for Ioan Cunningham’s side, as the women’s competition is essentially split in two with England and France’s programmes well out in front while the chasing pack battle it out among themselves for the “best of the rest” title.
However, there’s still room for improvement for Wales and the opportunity to do something that we haven’t done since 2009; win three games in a Six Nations.
To back up a third place two years on the bounce would be a terrific achievement, but as the women’s game continues to grow around the world and in Wales, this Welsh team have to keep improving. The gap to England and France is a big one but it’s not insurmountable, and getting to three wins this year would certainly be a step towards competing at the top of the table.
There’s no reason why we can’t go to Italy on Saturday and win either. There’s been some excellent rugby played this tournament; the defence has taken the solid base it had and gone up another level with a noticeable jackal focus, the kicking game has gained length and a tactical nous around when and how to kick, and the set piece has been destructive at times.
Over the last two weeks the attack has struggled at times against France and England, but showed plenty against Ireland and enough against Scotland to suggest that the Italians can be put under pressure on Parma. It would be a huge boost to finish with a confident offensive performance that this team are definitely capable of.
Then, with third place and three wins under the belt, Wales would head into a new tournament starting in the Autumn window with momentum behind them ready to test themselves against the best in the world as part of WXV1.
Along with France and England we would join the top three from the Oceania/Americas tournament in a cross-pool format, and as there is no promotion/relegation for this first edition of the competition, the Welsh would be guaranteed two years of mixing it at the top table of international rugby heading into the 2025 Rugby World Cup.
Before getting too ahead of ourselves though, this Wales team needs to walk rather than run, and that walking gets going in earnest with a win against Italy on Saturday.
Performances are picking up, results are picking up, and with that expectations are picking up. Let’s live up to the hype. Ymlaen Cymru!