Tonight's rugby news as Wales stars bid emotional goodbye and region sign 'outstanding' Welsh teenager

Lewis has been hailed as an 'outstanding' talent
-Credit: (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

These are your evening rugby headlines on Wednesday, June 26.

Wales stars bid emotional goodbye

Warren Gatland's Wales squad have jetted off to Australia ahead of their summer Test series Down Under.

After kicking off their summer with defeat to the Springboks at Twickenham, attention has quickly turned to Wales' first showdown with the Wallabies in Sydney next weekend. They will meet again in Melbourne exactly a week later, before rounding off their tour by taking on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on July 19.

The squad will be in Australia for the best part of the month, so it was an emotional day for the players as they said goodbye to their loved ones before the long flight.

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Scrum-half Kieran Hardy's partner Ellie shared photos of the new Ospreys signing hugging their two young children at the airport on Instagram, writing: "We hate goodbyes. See you in a few weeks daddy, so beyond proud of you, miss you already!"

Meanwhile, new cap Ellis Bevan was one of those to share a photo from inside the plane en route to Australia. The Cardiff man did well on his debut against South Africa and will be hoping to get more chances to impress over the course of the next month.

Region sign 'outstanding' Welsh teenager

Scarlets have signed Wales U20s scrum-half Rhodri Lewis from the Ospreys.

The 19-year-old has signed a Senior Academy contract and will join up with the region following the World Rugby U20s Championship in South Africa, which starts this weekend.

Lewis has six caps for Wales U20s, scoring a try against Scotland during this year's Six Nations. He made history as Aberavon’s youngest ever player in the professional era when he made his debut for the Wizards at the age of 17 years and 81 days back in November 2021, and announced himself with a stunning solo try against Swansea a month later.

His time with Aberavon saw his coach hail him as an "outstanding" talent and Scarlets boss Dwayne Peel says he is excited to get to work with the young scrum-half ahead of the new season.

“Rhodri is a talented young nine, sharp, with great feet and a good service," he said. "He has impressed with the U20s this year and I’m looking forward to working with him once he returns from the U20s World Cup in South Africa.

“In Archie, Efan and now Rhodri, we will have three exciting young scrum-halves snapping at the heels of Gar for next season and I’m sure all of them will be pushing him for that No. 9 jersey.”

Wales gearing up for 'cup final'

Wales Women are preparing for their must-win clash with Spain this weekend, with hooker Carys Phillips describing it as a 'cup final'.

After a bruising Six Nations campaign that saw them finish bottom and miss out on returning to WXV1, Ioan Cunningham's side must beat the Spaniards in a play-off match in order to make it through to the second tier of the competition, WXV2. However, that's not all with the winner of the match also automatically qualifying for the World Cup in England next year.

Phillips is not underestimating the challenge that Spain will pose at Arms Park on Saturday but says her side are fired up for the game which they know they simply cannot afford to lose.

“It’s a massive game for both teams – like a cup final," she said. "It’s very much a must win game. My 50th cap was against Spain, and they beat us. They are fit, fast and physical and they have a good set piece.

“A number of their girls have been professionals on the sevens circuit for quite a while and they are fast and tricky behind. It promises to be a real physical battle, but hopefully we can break them down up front.

“There is a lot of pressure on this game given that World Cup qualification is riding on the outcome. We all know that if we want to progress as a team, we need to be playing in Tier 1 or Tier 2 of WXV," she added.

“We all know the Six Nations didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. There is more investment going into women’s rugby across the board and every team is improving. Spain used to play in the Six Nations and are a very good outfit. We will have to bring our ‘A’ game at the weekend to ensure we end a very long year of rugby on a high.”

Kolisi retains captaincy

Siya Kolisi will lead the Springboks in their two-Test series against Ireland this summer, coach Rassie Erasmus has confirmed.

There was uncertainty whether the two-time World Cup-winning skipper would retain his role following his move to Racing 92, with Erasmus preferring to have his captain playing in South Africa.

But the back row will be leading his side out once again when they take on Andy Farrell's men, with the South Africa coach telling reporters: "Siya will be captain and will play the No.6 flank."

It comes after Kolisi was publicly criticised by Racing 92 president Jack Lorenzetti for his contribution to the French giants this season, accusing him of putting on weight and being out of shape. Despite a promising start to the campaign, the Springbok failed to hit the heights in France after picking up an injury, leading Lorenzetti to comment: “The injury lay-off was harmful to him. He gained weight, lost shape and [against Bordeaux] he was transparent.

But Erasmus showed that he has Kolisi's back, as he told reporters with a smile: "Siya’s fit and got no injury and Siya’s not fat and Siya’s not transparent."