Six Nations 2013: Job done for World Cup bound Wales

By Non EvansFormer Wales full-back

It was a case of mission accomplished for Wales Women in this season's Six Nations, but the final three minutes of the campaign left the bitter taste of disappointment and an opportunity lost.

The main objective Wales had was to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in France by finishing in the top four. Victories over Scotland and Italy ensured they did that, albeit by points difference ahead of the Italians.

But it could, and maybe should, have been better. A second victory in history over England was within their grasp on Sunday as they led 16-15 at Aberavon in the final match. But some weak tackling allowed England wing Sally Tuson to score a late try to snatch a 16-20 victory.

Tuson is a very powerful wing - I see her as the George North of the women's game - but four or five tackles were broken on the way to Wales' tryline.

The girls were distraught because Wales have only ever beaten England once. I was playing in that game in 2009 and we actually won 16-15 so history almost repeated itself.

The defeat had no influence on the bigger picture, however, as England would have need to put 50 points on Wales to deny them fourth place ahead of Italy.

Wales certainly improved as a squad during the campaign and the greater emphasis on fitness levels became evident. There is a professional attitude to training; they follow a similar programme to the men's team at the Welsh Rugby Union training base.

Strength, power and endurance are all as much a part of the women's game as the men's these days.

We also saw the development of the squad in terms of its strength in depth during this campaign. Wales rotated well this season, giving some youngsters valuable experience as they build towards the World Cup. When I played, we depended on the same 15 for years, but there were six changes to the side for the England game from the team that beat Italy.

As far as negatives, they perhaps should have beaten Ireland in the opening game, where another late try proved costly. Ireland went on to win every game to secure the Grand Slam for the first time in their history, which is a great achievement, and proved how Wales played in that game.

Everyone certainly benefited from England's decision not to select many of their leading players, who instead went to play on the sevens circuit.

England have been a dominant force for years - before this season, they hadn't lost a game since Wales beat them in 2009 to win the Triple Crown. They were weakened this year, but they've got so much strength in depth. They've got the luxury of a huge player base and greater funding than all the other home nations.

Wales are certainly one of the teams closing the gap and they can start preparing for next year's World Cup with confidence and optimism.

As Wales captain Rachel Taylor said after the England game, there is so much potential in the side but things are just not quiet clicking. They need to learn how to finish sides off. When that happens and the players begin to gel, this will be a very good Wales side indeed.

Non Evans was talking to BBC Wales Sport's Dewi Hughes.


Join the conversation