Wales clinch 2025 World Cup spot with Spain rout

Alex Callender scores
Alex Callender opened the scoring inside four minutes [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

WXV2 play-off

Wales (21) 52

Tries: Callender, Fleming, Joyce-Butchers 2, Cox 3, Hesketh Cons: Bevan 6, George

Spain: (20) 20

Tries: Antolinez, Perez, Pena Cons: Argudo Pens: Argudo

Wales booked their place at the 2025 World Cup with an eight-try victory over Spain in Cardiff.

Carys Cox scored a second-half hat-trick as Wales recovered from a shaky first half to finally shrug off their visitors.

Alex Callender and Abbie Fleming crossed early on before Alisha Joyce-Butchers crossed twice and Jenny Hesketh added another score.

The victory also saw Wales secure their place in WXV2, which is to be held in South Africa in September.

It offered Wales a glimmer of hope at the end of a frustrating season that was reflected by the disappointing crowd of 2,436 at the Arms Park.

Head coach Ioan Cunningham will be mightily relieved after cracks in his team's game and confidence were exposed by Rugby Europe Championship winners Spain, who had their hosts rattled with the score at 21-20 in Wales' favour at half-time.

A clash of styles between the Welsh forwards and Spanish backs produced a thrilling first half that featured six tries.

Wales must have thought they were on track for victory when they crossed twice inside the opening 12 minutes.

Callender raced through from number eight Bethan Lewis' clever inside pass before lock Fleming crashed over after Kerin Lake was inches short of a score on her 50th cap.

But Spain, on a seven-game winning run, refused to buckle and Cox's yellow card for deliberately blocking a pass was not only needless but costly.

It opened the space Spain were seeking and they struck twice in seven minutes.

A scorching break by fly-half Amalia Argudo was finished by prop Ines Antolinez before full-back Claudia Pena put Spain ahead 15-14 with the second.

Wales flanker Joyce-Butchers squeezed over to reclaim the lead, but the advantage was swiftly cut to a point when Claudia Perez stepped through defenders to score just before half-time.

Carys Cox scores
Carys Cox returned from a yellow card to score a second-half hat-trick [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

Cunningham and Wales faced a huge second 40 minutes and, with their season on the line, reverted to type through the pack and Lleucu George's boot.

Cox began to make amends for her earlier card when she powered through before Joyce-Butchers stretched out for her second.

That proved the crucial score and at 35-20 ahead, Wales could finally cut loose.

Cox was the main beneficiary, finishing a break by Hesketh before returning the compliment moments later, and then collecting Robyn Wilkins' cross-field kick to complete the hat-trick three minutes from time.

Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham said: "This win is everything for us as a group. We went to the World Cup in 2022 and WXV1 last year so to get back to another World Cup is big.

"It was a real arm wrestle in that first half but in a strange way it was good to go through a bit of adversity.

"We could see after 45-50 minutes they were starting to go, we kept the foot on the throat and I'm pleased with the way we got through it.

Wales: Jenny Hesketh; Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones (capt), Kerin Lake, Carys Cox; Lleucu George, Keira Bevan; Gwenllian Pyrs, Carys Phillips, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Abbie Fleming, Georgia Evans, Alisha Butchers, Alex Callender, Bethan Lewis

Replacements: Molly Reardon, Abbey Constable, Donna Rose, Kate Williams, Gwennan Hopkins, Sian Jones, Robyn Wilkins, Courtney Keight.

Sin bin: Cox (21)

Spain: Claudia Pena; Claudia Perez, Alba Vinuesa, Zahia Perez, Clara Piquero; Amalia Argudo, Lucia Diaz; Ines Antolinez, Marieta Roman, Laura Delgado (capt), Monica Castelo, Lourdes Alameda, Nerea Garcia, Alba Capell, Carmen Castellucci

Replacements: Nuria Jou, Maria Del Castillo, Sidorella Bracic, Anna Puig, Maria Calvo, Lia Pineiro, Maider Aresti, Martina Marquez.


Referee: Aurelie Groizeleau (FFR)

Assistants: Holly Wood (RFU), Adele Robert (BEL)

TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)