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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Andrew Baldock

Ken Owens named Wales captain as Warren Gatland picks four uncapped players for upcoming Six Nations

Wales' Ken Owens during the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Picture date: Saturday November 12, 2022.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named four uncapped players in his squad for the Guinness Six Nations Championship.

Ospreys centre Keiran Williams, Cardiff centre Mason Grady, Ospreys lock Rhys Davies and Cardiff second-row forward Teddy Williams have all been selected.

The quartet are the only international rookies among a 37-man group, with Gatland’s second spell as Wales boss beginning against Ireland on February 4.

Scarlets hooker Ken Owens has been appointed captain, being preferred to other candidates such as Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones.

Elsewhere, there are recalls for 34-year-old Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb – who last played Test rugby in 2020 – Ospreys fly-half Owen Williams, Scarlets back Rhys Patchell, Cardiff prop Rhys Carre and Dragons back-row forward Aaron Wainwright.

Selection absentees include Ross Moriarty, Nicky Smith and Ryan Elias, while injuries have sidelined the likes of fly-half Gareth Anscombe and lock Will Rowlands.

But Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who is currently out of action due to an ankle problem, has been picked.

Gatland said: “It’s probably a bigger squad than I would 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.

File photo dated 13-12-2022 of Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Warren Gatland returning as Wales boss. Gatland’s first stint in the role lasted 12 years, during which time Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams, reached two World Cup semi-finals and were briefly ranked world rugby’s number one team. Issue date: Friday December 16, 2022.

“It is looking at the whole element for the squad and how we get the balance right, because that is definitely going to be a challenge over the next 10 months.”

On the captaincy, Gatland added: “Ken is incredibly experienced and a passionate Welshman – it means a lot to him to play for Wales. He is also very popular with the players.

“He came back from injury and was absolutely outstanding during the autumn campaign.

“Probably, if you are picking a team at the moment, he is the number one in that position.”

Former Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas, meanwhile, has been confirmed as the final member of Gatland’s coaching team.

Ireland's Dan Sheehan (right) tackled by Wales' Dillon Lewis during the Six Nations match at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Picture date: Saturday February 5, 2022.

Thomas, who won 67 Wales caps between 2003 and 2011, will have responsibility for the contact area.

He joins fellow assistant coaches Alex King, Jonathan Humphreys, Mike Forshaw and Neil Jenkins.

Thomas said: “I am 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.

“Being successful and inspiring our great country is what it is all about, and I am determined to support and help make a difference to the players and staff.”

Wales squad for the Guinness Six Nations Championship – Backs: K Hardy (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys), Tomos Williams (Cardiff), D Biggar (Toulon), R Patchell (Scarlets), O Williams (Ospreys), M Grady (Cardiff), J Hawkins (Ospreys), G North (Ospreys), N Tompkins (Saracens), K Williams (Ospreys), J Adams (Cardiff), A Cuthbert (Ospreys), R Dyer (Dragons), L Halfpenny (Scarlets), L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), L Williams (Cardiff).

Forwards: R Carre (Cardiff), W Jones (Scarlets), G Thomas (Ospreys), D Lake (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets, capt), B Roberts (Dragons), L Brown (Dragons), T Francis (Ospreys), D Lewis (Cardiff), A Beard (Ospreys), R Davies (Ospreys), D Jenkins (Exeter), A W Jones (Ospreys), Teddy Williams (Cardiff), T Faletau (Cardiff), J Morgan (Ospreys), T Reffell (Leicester), J Tipuric (Ospreys), C Tshiunza (Exeter), A Wainwright (Dragons).

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