WALES coach Chris Horsman believes powerhouses England and France won't have it all their own way in the Women's Six Nations this year, writes Chris Kirwan.

The tournament gets under way at Cardiff Arms Park a week on Sunday when Italy are the visitors (kick-off 1pm).

England and France have shared the trophy in the last four years and are second and fourth respectively in World Rugby's ranking.

The Italians are seventh, Wales eighth, Ireland 10th and Scotland 11th but Horsman believes the winner of the clash between the big hitters in Pau on opening weekend won't enjoy a cakewalk to the title.

"The Six Nations is certainly one of the toughest, if not the toughest competition in the female game," said the former Wales prop, who is heading the coaching team in the continued absence of Rowland Phillips.

"England and France are two of the best teams in the world but all the other nations have invested in women's rugby too.

"Whereas in previous years the outcome may have been fairly scripted, I think the tournament will be a lot more open this year."

Western Telegraph:

Wales head into the competition on the back of an encouraging autumn campaign when a raft of young talent was given the chance to shine.

Horsman and fellow coaches Gareth Wyatt and Geraint Lewis are building towards next year's World Cup in New Zealand but also want to improve on their 2019 finish in fourth.

"Anticipation is really building now and we are confident we are in a good position after the progress we made in the autumn and with a few weeks of intense training under our belt," said Horsman.

"Our ultimate aim is to keep building momentum and improving in order to close the gap on the best teams in the world.

"That starts with Italy in our opening game. They are ahead of us in the world rankings so they are certainly one of the teams we want to chase down.

"They are a very good side, beating France last season to finish second in the table and beating us two years ago at Principality Stadium but hopefully we will put in a good performance at home and see a more high-scoring match than our 3-3 draw last year.

"Having been part of the Six Nations as a player, momentum is key, it's important to get off to a good start in the opening two games."