Wayne Pivac has raided England for his first Six Nations squad, naming four uncapped Premiership players among the 38 who will defend the title Wales won with the grand slam last year.
Pivac, who took over from Warren Gatland after last year’s World Cup, was expected to call on Gloucester’s 18-year old wing Louis Rees-Zammit and the Sale prop WillGriff John, but after ordering Wales’s Exiles’s department to be more proactive in the hunt for players eligible to wear the red jersey, he has included Saracens’ in-form centre Nick Tompkins, who had been linked with an England call-up, and the Wasps’ second row Will Rowlands.
Tompkins will have an excellent chance of making his international debut against Italy in Cardiff on the opening weekend if he impresses in training, with Wales struggling for options at 13. Jonathan Davies will miss the entire tournament with a knee injury and the only other specialist in the position in the squad is Owen Watkin. Two wings, George North and Josh Adams, played at outside centre for their regions last weekend.
The Scarlets’ wing John McNicholl, who played in the uncapped match against the Barbarians last month, is the fifth player in the squad yet to make an international appearance, while there are recalls for Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb, Owen Williams and Cory Hill after injury. Liam Williams is included even though injury has prevented him from playing for Saracens since the World Cup along with club colleague Rhys Carre, who was sent off against Ospreys last weekend. Alun Wyn Jones continues to lead the side.
“A lot of time and effort has gone into selecting the squad, said Pivac, who takes over from Wales’s most successful coach since the 1970s. “All the coaches have been out and about, seeing players in training, speaking with them and we are pretty excited with the group we have got.
“The Barbarians week was hugely important for us. We got a lot of ‘firsts’ out of the way, getting to meet and get in front of the players and having a game together were hugely beneficial. We do have a couple of injuries but we see that as an opportunity for some new players to impress, with not only the Six Nations in mind but also longer term and the 2023 World Cup.
“The Six Nations is hugely exciting for me, it is something I grew up watching from afar and it has such history attached to it, I’m really looking forward to the campaign.”
Wales’ 2020 Six Nations Squad.
Forwards (21) Rhys Carre (Saracens) (6 Caps), Rob Evans (Scarlets) (36 Caps), Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (22 Caps), Elliot Dee (Dragons) (29 Caps), Ryan Elias (Scarlets) (9 Caps), Ken Owens (Scarlets) (73 Caps), Leon Brown (Dragons) (6 Caps), WillGriff John (Sale) (*uncapped), Dillon Lewis (Blues) (22 Caps), Jake Ball (Scarlets) (42 Caps), Adam Beard (Ospreys) (20 Caps), Seb Davies (Blues) (7 Caps), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (134 Caps), Will Rowlands (Wasps) (*uncapped), Cory Hill (Dragons) (24 Caps), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (26 Caps), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) (18 Caps), Taulupe Faletau (Bath) (72 Caps), Ross Moriarty (Dragons) (41 Caps), Josh Navidi (Blues) (23 Caps), Justin Tipuric (Osprey) (72 Caps).
Backs (17) Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (51 Caps), Rhys Webb (Toulon) (31 Caps), Tomos Williams (Blues) (16 Caps), Dan Biggar (Northampton) (79 Caps), Owen Williams (Gloucester) (3 Caps), Jarrod Evans (Blues) (3 Caps), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (25 Caps), Nick Tompkins (Saracens) (*uncapped), Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (22 Caps), George North (Ospreys) (91 Caps), Josh Adams (Blues) (21 Caps), Owen Lane (Blues) (2 Caps), Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) (*uncapped), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester) (*uncapped), Jonah Holmes (Leicester Tigers) (3 Caps), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (85 Caps), Liam Williams (Saracens) (62 Caps).
More information: THE GUARDIAN.