Gatland brings in four uncapped players for Six Nations
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Ken Owens was named as Wales captain for the Six Nations on Tuesday as returning coach Warren Gatland announced his 37-man squad for the championship.
The Scarlets hooker has seen off competition for the role from other senior players including Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar.
Gatland, returning for a second stint as Wales coach, has selected four uncapped players in the group – centres Keiran Williams (Ospreys) and Mason Grady (Cardiff), as well as Ospreys lock Rhys Davies and Cardiff second-row forward Teddy Williams.
Another six players could be in line to make their first Six Nations appearance including Rio Dyer, Joe Hawkins and Dafydd Jenkins, who made their international debuts last November.
Gatland said: “It’s probably a bigger squad than I’d normally name, but we want to have a good Six Nations and also look forward to the World Cup.
“We’ve some youngsters that have come in and then we’ve some older very experienced players that we need to manage. It’s looking at the whole element for the squad and how we get the balance right, because that’s definitely going to be a challenge over the next ten months.
“There are some players that were unlucky they didn’t’ make the squad, so the message to them is keep working hard you’re not out of the picture.”
Regarding the captaincy, Gatland added: “Ken’s incredibly experienced and a passionate Welshman – it means a lot to him to play for Wales. He’s also very popular with the players.
“He came back from injury and was absolutely outstanding during the autumn campaign. Probably, if you’re picking a team at the moment he’s the number one in that position. But he’s going to have some competition with Dewi and Bradley as well which is going to be great.”
The squad will meet up at the national training base in Hensol on Monday 23 January ahead of its first game against Ireland which will take place at a sold out Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on Saturday 4 February.
In addition, Jonathan Thomas is confirmed as the final appointment to the Wales senior men’s coaching team. He will have responsibility for the contact area.
Former Worcester Warriors head coach Thomas, who won 67 caps for Wales between 2003 and 2011, has most recently been working as a forwards consultant for Ealing Trailfinders. He also spent four years at Bristol Bears as defence and forwards coach, helping them achieve promotion to the Premiership and win the European Challenge Cup.
Thomas took up his coaching role at Bristol immediately after finishing his successful 14-year playing career where he represented Swansea, Ospreys and Worcester at club level. During his 67-cap international career, Thomas was involved in every Wales game during the 2005 and 2008 Grand-Slam winning campaigns. He went to two Rugby World Cups (2003 and 2007) and appeared in every Wales senior men’s Six Nations squad between 2004 and 2011.
Speaking about his appointment Thomas said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be part of the coaching team. As a passionate Welshman my dream and ambition growing up was to play for Wales. Since finishing playing and going into coaching my ambition has been to become part of the international coaching set up.”
Wales squad for 2023 Six Nations:
Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Ken Owens (captain), Bradley Roberts, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Rhys Davies (uncapped), Dafydd Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Teddy Williams (uncapped), Taulupe Faletau, Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, Justin Tipuric, Christ Tshiunza, Aaron Wainwright.
Backs: Kieran Hardy, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Owen Williams, Mason Grady (uncapped), Joe Hawkins, George North, Nick Tompkins, Keiran Williams (uncapped), Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Rio Dyer, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams.
Additional source: AFP