Wales head coach Warren Gatland has announced a 37-player squad for the 2023 Six Nations, with hooker Ken Owens handed the captaincy.
Owens takes over the role from Dan Biggar, with fellow experienced international, Alun Wyn Jones, also included in Gatland’s first squad since his return.
Wyn Jones, Dewi Lake and Liam Williams return to the Wales squad having missed the Autumn Nations Series due to injury. There are also recalls for Leon Brown, Rhys Carre, Rhys Patchell, Aaron Wainwright, Rhys Webb and Owen Williams.
Four uncapped player named in squad
Four uncapped players are selected. Rhys Davies, who was called into Wales camp during the autumn, features alongside Ospreys team-mate Keiran Williams plus Cardiff Rugby duo Mason Grady and 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 debut 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 10 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, January 23, ahead of its first game against Ireland, which will take place at a sold-out Principality Stadium, Cardiff on Saturday, February 4.
Jonathan Thomas added to coaching team
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.
“Being successful and inspiring our great country is what it’s all about and I’m determined to support and help make a difference to the players and staff.”
Wales squad for Six Nations
Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Ken Owens (c), Bradley Roberts, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Rhys Davies, Dafydd Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Teddy Williams, 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, Joe Hawkins, George North, Nick Tompkins, Keiran Williams, Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Rio Dyer, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams
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