Women's Six Nations: Wales still have L plates on as professionals - Ioan Cunningham

Guinness Six Nations: Wales v Italy

Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 27 April Kick-off: 12:15 BST

Coverage: Watch live on BBC One Wales, BBC iPlayer and online from 15:00 BST; listen on BBC Radio Wales & Radio Cymru; text commentary, highlights and report on BBC Sport website and app. Highlights on Scrum V Six Nations, Sunday, 28 April, BBC Two Wales from 18:00 BST and later on demand.

Head coach Ioan Cunningham says Wales still have their "learner plates on" when it comes to professionalism.

His side are rooted to the bottom of the Women's Six Nations table after Sunday's 40-0 defeat by France.

It was a seventh consecutive loss for Wales, who face Italy at Principality Stadium on Saturday, 27 April hoping to avoid the Wooden Spoon.

But, despite their poor run, Cunningham says Wales "have come a long way" since turning professional in 2022.

"This team was 13th in the world, they hadn't won a game in two and a half years," he said.

"We've still got L plates on when it comes to professionalism, people have got to understand that."

France ran in six tries at Cardiff Arms Park and will face England in a Grand Slam decider next Saturday in Bordeaux (16:45 BST).

Despite the result Cunningham said "it was a much better performance" than last weekend's 36-5 loss in Ireland, where Wales simply "didn't turn up".

"If the effort is there and the next action is there we've got something to build on," he said, "I thought that was there today in abundance.

"We fought for every inch, we went through some good attacking sets, just that clinical edge that we are still searching for, but I am confident if we can produce some plays like that against Italy next week, we can finish this championship on a high."

Cunningham's reaction has been questioned by former Wales international, turned pundit, Dyddgu Hywel.

"If I was sat in the changing rooms and we had lost 40-0 then the head coach comes in and says he's really happy with the effort girls... I don't think that's acceptable," she told BBC Radio Wales.

"We need to raise the standards, we need to expect more from the coaching team and expect more from the players again if we can compete against the likes of France and England."

Former Wales coach Chris Horsman was working alongside Hywel, and he too took a more critical edge.

"Have we invested this money, time and effort over two years to say we stuck at it? It should be beyond that," he said.

"This year Wales should have been saying we want to get France.

"If you want the exposure and you want people watching the game you are going to have more opinions, that is the price on the ticket.

"If you want to be professional rugby players at the highest level you have got to be setting those standards and you've got to be demanding more of yourselves."

Meanwhile, former Wales captain Rachel Taylor agreed with Cunningham in terms of the team's effort.

"We saw more heart, more guts and more grit in that final play when we were still fighting for the ball, so that was encouraging," she told BBC One Wales.

"There's lots to do. Scoring 33 points in this whole tournament so far is just not good enough from an attack point of view, and that's a part that needs to be reviewed."

Another former captain, Siwan Lillicrap, said four losses in this campaign "is a tough one", especially after Wales finished third last year with three wins.

But she insists Wales "have nothing to lose" in their final match.

"They've got to go out there against Italy next week and throw absolutely everything at it, because we don't want to be in that sixth spot.

"It is no option but to win with a bonus point, so don't play with fear and just go out there and throw everything at it.

"It's disappointing we are in that position."