Ospreys dominate Wales team

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Warren Gatland has named a record 13 Ospreys in the Wales starting line-up to face England in Saturday's RBS Six Nations Championship clash at Twickenham.

The only players selected in the team from outside the Ospreys are Cardiff Blues flanker Martyn Williams, who recently ended a brief stint in retirement, and Llanelli Scarlets winger Mark Jones.

Wales have not won at Twickenham in 20 years and Gatland is leaning heavily on the Ospreys' recent success against English clubs.

The big-spenders from the Liberty Stadium have beaten Gloucester, London Irish, Harlequins and Worcester this season to reach the last eight of the Heineken Cup and the EDF Energy Cup semi-finals.

The last time one club was so heavily represented in the national team was 60 years ago, when Cardiff dominated the Wales line-up.

Gatland's first Wales squad also includes the surprise selection of Sonny Parker ahead of Tom Shanklin at outside centre.

As expected, James Hook is preferred to Stephen Jones at fly-half while Gavin Henson will make his first start in the Six Nations since the 2005 Grand Slam campaign.

Gatland said: "We want to stress that this is very much a 22-man selection, we have an extremely strong bench to call upon with three former British Lions in there if we need them.

"We haven't gone out to pick as many Ospreys as possible by design, the fact that there are 13 of them is probably more of a coincidence than anything else, but saying that you can't escape the fact that they've been one of the form sides in Europe so far this season."

Lee Byrne won the battle to start at full-back, while Mike Phillips dons the scrum-half jersey with Dwayne Peel nursing an ankle injury.

"Dwayne Peel was ruled out of selection for this week due to an injury he picked up in training to his right ankle, but we hope to have him back in contention for next week," added Gatland.

"Dwayne's injury gives Mike a chance to perform and James completes that partnership with Stephen Jones, having not played much rugby recently, taking up a place on the bench.

"We have been impressed with Lee Byrne in defence for the Ospreys and his confidence under the high ball in training and positional play has given him the nod at full-back."

The big decision in the pack was in the second row, where Ian Gough starts alongside Alun-Wyn Jones with Ospreys team-mate Ian Evans on the bench.

Ryan Jones will captain Wales for the first time having won both his previous matches against England.

"We are going to Twickenham on a giant-killing mission, they are the big boys with the extensive resources and huge strength in depth, but we still give ourselves every chance," added Gatland.

"We are like a first division club going to Manchester United in a cup tie and any suggestion that we are anything but underdogs in this game is ridiculous, but we do have the self belief to think that we are in with a chance against our bigger brother from over the border.

"They have an established coaching team, an established structure to their game and all the resources at their disposal to produce a top four rugby team.

"We have had a short time together so far and have had to implement things quickly, by the end of the Six Nations we will probably be ready, but we are going to give it our best shot."

* Meanwhile, England confirmed that Easter was among four players not considered for selection because of injury.

Easter's knee ligament sprain meant he was a non-starter, although he will remain with the England medical team to continue his rehabilitation.

The other casualties are scrum-half Paul Hodgson (knee ligament sprain), lock Deacon (groin strain) and flanker Croft (shoulder).

Easter apart, the rest of England's non-matchday squad this weekend will return to their clubs

Wales team:

L Byrne (Ospreys); S Williams (Ospreys), S Parker (Ospreys), G Henson (Ospreys), M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets); J Hook (Ospreys), M Phillips (Ospreys); D Jones (Ospreys), H Bennett (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), AW Jones (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).

Replacements: M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), I Evans (Ospreys), A Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), G Cooper (Gloucester), S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues).

England team:

I Balshaw (Gloucester); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tindall (Gloucester), T Flood (Newcastle), D Strettle (Harlequins); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath), J Haskell (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester), L Narraway (Gloucester).

Replacements: L Mears (Bath), M Stevens (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), T Rees (Wasps), R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), D Cipriani (Wasps), L Vainikolo (Gloucester).

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