The Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, has named four uncapped players in his squad for the Six Nations Championship and appointed Ken Owens as captain.
Ospreys center Keiran Williams, Cardiff center 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 4 February.
The Scarlets hooker 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.
“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,” said Gatland. “We’ve some youngsters that have come in and then we’ve some older, very experienced players that we need to manage. 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.”
The former Worcester head coach Jonathan Thomas, meanwhile, has been confirmed as the final member of Gatland’s coaching team. 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 honored 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.”