Six Nations: Warren Gatland includes injured trio Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Gethin Jenkins in 32-man squad
Davies is not expected to return until March at the earliest while Warburton has been sidelined in recent weeks
Tuesday 14 January 2014
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named a 32-man squad for this season's RBS 6 Nations title defence.
There are no uncapped players in Gatland's group, which will be captained by last year's British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton.
Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies, who is not expected back in action until early March while he continues his recovery from a chest muscle injury, is in the squad, but there is no place for Cardiff Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams.
Gatland will also need to run the rule over Warburton, who has been sidelined in recent weeks due to injury, while his fellow Blues forward Gethin Jenkins went off injured during last Saturday's Heineken Cup defeat against Toulon.
Wales are seeking to become the first country in Six Nations history to win a hat-trick of titles. They kick off their campaign at home to Italy on February 1.
Former Blues centre Jamie Roberts, now with Paris-based Racing Metro, also features after he missed this season's autumn internationals because of injury.
Williams, meanwhile, loses out behind Gatland's preferred scrum-half trio of Mike Phillips, Rhodri Williams and fit-again Ospreys number nine Rhys Webb.
The squad contains 28 players who have been part of previous Six Nations-winning groups, with Gatland opting for a split of 13 backs and 19 forwards.
"We have got an opportunity to create history, and that is something we will focus on and something that will give us extra motivation," Gatland said.
"We have got the three games at home and two tough away games, but when we won the Grand Slam in 2008 and 2012 we had these fixtures, so we know it can be done.
"The Six Nations is always a tough competition. You need a little bit of luck and momentum, and that's why we need to start well against Italy first up.
"We've picked a pretty experienced squad and kept it fairly tight at this stage.
"There is a possibility we may add one or two players in. There are a few younger guys that need a bit of rugby, so we were keen for them to stay with the region. Perhaps after the first couple of rounds when they have some more rugby under their belts we may add them into the squad.
"One of the things we have tried to create is an environment where the players look forward to coming into the national team. We are blessed with some of the best facilities and the best stadium in the world, so there is no lack of motivation for the players when they come in to the squad."
Welsh rugby is currently in the grip of a volatile political climate due to an ongoing dispute between the Welsh Rugby Union and Wales' four professional regions.
But Gatland added: "We know there are some politics going on at the moment, but we will put that to one side, come together as a group and focus on the rugby and what we can control.
"We can't wait to kick off the tournament at home against Italy."
Gatland's squad will assemble next Monday.
Wales squad for the 2014 RBS 6 Nations Championship:
Backs: L Williams (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), G North (Northampton), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Racing Metro), J Davies (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Racing Metro), R Williams (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys).
Forwards: P James (Bath), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), R Bevington (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), E Phillips (Scarlets), A-W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Perpignan), I Evans (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), D Lydiate (Racing Metro), A Shingler (Scarlets), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
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