Rugby Six Nations Wales
Wales coach Warren Gatland names his squad for 2018 NatWest Six Nations
Wales and Scotland rugby union teams are getting ready for their huge NetWest Six Nations opening clash at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Scotland on February 3rd. The Wales fans are in a jubilant mood and Wales head coach Warren Gatland is confident ahead of rugby's greatest championship that is almost upon us - it is only just six days until we get to see some of the world's best rugby players go face to face again. Wales have named a 39-man squad for the 2018 NatWest Six Nations, led by captain Alun Wyn Jones and featuring two uncapped players, flanker James Davies and wing Josh Adams. The uncapped duo were called up to a Wales squad for the first time and will link up with the rest of the more experienced squad at the National Centre of Excellence. Rob Evans, Wyn Jones and Nicky Smith who all featured in the recent Under Armour Series are named with Dillon Lewis, who made his debut on the 2017 Summer Tour, Tomas Francis and Samson Lee. Scott Baldwin is recalled to the squad and is named alongside Ken Owens and Elliot Dee at hooker. 57-times capped second-row Bradley Davies features alongside skipper Jones, Cory Hill, Seb Davies and Adam Beard. Aled Davies, Gareth Davies and Rhys Webb are named as the scrum-halves, with Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland and Gareth Anscombe as fly-halves. Owen Watkin and Hadleigh Parkes, who both made their debut last autumn, feature alongside Owen and Scott Williams. Worcester wing Adams is named alongside Hallam Amos and Steff Evans along with Lions quartet George North, Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland talked about his side. "It is an exciting opportunity for the two new caps. James' form over the last couple of years has been impressive, he's in a competitive area but we look forward to seeing what he can do. For Josh it's a great opportunity, he's been on great form and the back-three is somewhere we are looking to create depth in," said Gatland. "We have selected a larger squad and it is an opportunity for us to work with a wider group and continue building for the next 18 months. It's important to have a group of players who are used to the environment, know what is expected and are familiar with things and that will really benefit us going forward. We have included a couple of players who are carrying injuries. With Taulupe we are hoping he will be available towards the end of the campaign and Rhys (Priestland) picked up a knock at the weekend so we will see where he is at. It's useful to have these experienced guys around camp and to have them included and to work with them. Last autumn was about exposing and developing players as part of the two-year countdown to the RWC, the next couple of months are about testing those players in tournament rugby - we know how important the Six Nations is."
Wales Squad for 2018 NatWest Six Nations
Rob Evans (Scarlets) (20 Caps)
Wyn Jones (Scarlets (5 Caps)
Nicky Smith (Ospreys) (16 Caps)
Scott Baldwin (Ospreys) (34 Caps)
Elliot Dee (Dragons) (2 Caps)
Ken Owens (Scarlets) (52 Caps)
Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (26 Caps)
Samson Lee (Scarlets) (34 Caps)
Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues) (2 Caps)
Adam Beard (Ospreys) (2 Caps)
Bradley Davies (Ospreys) (57 Caps)
Seb Davies (Cardiff Blues) (3 Caps)
Cory Hill (Dragons) (10 Caps)
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (113 Caps) (CAPT)
James Davies (Scarlets) (*Uncapped)
Taulupe Faletau (Bath) (70 Caps)
Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues) (5 Caps)
Ross Moriarty (Gloucester) (17 Caps)
Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (7 Caps)
Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (13 Caps)
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (52 Caps)
Aled Davies (Scarlets) (5 Caps)
Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (27 Caps)
Rhys Webb (Ospreys) (31 Caps)
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) (11 Caps)
Dan Biggar (Ospreys) (60 Caps)
Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) (5 Caps)
Rhys Priestland (Bath) (50 Caps)
Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (1 Cap)
Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (2 Caps)
Owen Williams (Gloucester) (3 Caps)
Scott Williams (Scarlets) (51 Caps)
Josh Adams (Worcester Warriors) (*Uncapped)
Hallam Amos (Dragons) (15 Caps)
Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues) (47 Caps)
Steff Evans (Scarlets) (5 Caps)
Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (74 Caps)
George North (Northampton Saints) (69 Caps)
Liam Williams (Saracens) (45 Caps)
Luckily Ireland have no injury concerns ahead of their opening NatWest Six Nations match against France on Saturday. Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale arrived for camp with a "dead leg" but has returned to full training. Assistant coach Simon Easterby said that all 36 players in camp are fit and available. Last week Joe Schmidt took the unusual step of relocating the squad to Spain for a warm-weather training camp with great results. Easterby said the move had the desired effect. "It's all good," Eastrby said."I don't want to put the kibosh on it but the lads are in good form, they've trained well and we had an excellent week last week. We looked after them in the first part of the week and we trained them hard at the end of the week in Spain."
Stockdale, who has scored four tries in four appearances for Ireland said: "I'm back into full training, so yeah, I've been going well, well enough." Ireland manager Joe Schmidt knows his team come into the Six Nations in top form. The Irish won three out of three in November and finished last year's Championship with victory and denied England the Grand Slam. Ireland's opening game in Paris is ahead and Schmidt and his squad are ready for the challenge. After finishing second a year ago, Schmidt is strategic in the build-up to the tournament as his side went to Spain for a warm weather training camp, which the New Zealander hopes will have a beneficial impact. "Part of it was that the players felt it would be a good idea and I felt it was a good idea as well," said Schmidt. "We knew this season was going to be particularly tough with two European games, three derbies, then two more European games, so it's been seven tough weeks. The first thing is to regenerate a bit and then really roll our sleeves up. It means we get into our own little bubble and it also means the conditions we train in are consistent so we can get a volume of work down.In the past, we've occasionally had really heavy frosts that have caused the ground to be a little bit hard to train on, or we've had deluges of rain. It's hard to do organizational work. You might have to play in that so you can train in that for sure, but just to try and get everyone organized again, it's good to be able to do it inconsistently and relatively fine conditions." Jordan Larmour is the only uncapped player in the Ireland squad, with a lot of players who have been impressing for Leinster and Munster called up. Dan Leavy and Jack Conan will be battling for a spot in the back row in the absence of Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip. Schmidt is particularly excited about the depth at his disposal in his pack.
"This NatWest 6 Nations we have the youngest squad we have had and there is a degree of excitement in that," said Schmidt. "It does not mean we change the way we play; it means some players will play slightly differently. We have got guys, you look at skill sets, at personnel, and you look at some of the players we had four years ago and you look at the new breed of forward that comes out of teams and their comfort level on the ball that allows them to play slightly differently." Talented twenty-year-old Jordan Larmour, the former Ireland Under-20s winger or full-back, made Schmidt's squad with some breath-taking performances for Leinster, earning the team's player of the month award in both November and December. Schmidt has been tracking Larmour for a long time and joined the squad in a training camp in November 2016. "I saw him when he was fresh out of St. Andrew's College and he's been into our camp before - the first time was probably 16 months ago during the November series," said Schmidt. "So we've spent a bit of time having Jordan in and to get him in permanently now is to potentially accelerate his progress into the matchday squad and into, potentially, a starting 15. The things that we've seen in Jordan - obviously, the most visible things are his ability to accelerate, to change direction, but he's a skillful young man as well. He's effective in the air, his passing skills are good, he fully commits to the physical aspects of the game as well. He's a really good kid, Jordan, so that's always a compelling factor as well."
Larmour may feature in Ireland's opener against France. "Players have come in confident, but there's also that reality of the history we have in France and that unpredictability that is exacerbated by the changes that we know have just happened in French rugby," said Schmidt. "I think France last year and this year is a little bit different. In the past, some of the French players would have had to have played this coming weekend. That's not the case now, they can protect 30 players so that they can get that fresh approach into that first game. With the attritional nature of the Top 14, that breathing space will breathe a bit of life into the French players and will hit them when they're incredibly lively."
Schmidt has been keeping a close eye on the French talent coming through, notably back row Sekou Macalou, who made his debut in the Autumn Internationals. "I was really impressed with Macalou in the November series," said Schmidt. "I thought individually he's the sort of athlete that can change a game. I think he could be outstanding in the set-piece. I think his line-out defense is very difficult to contend with. "His ability to get off the line and win collisions was impressive and obviously he's an athlete with the ball so he's a guy [I'm looking at] because I'm probably more France focused at the moment. "He's a guy that is at the front of my mind as well as those two young tens [Anthony Belleau and Matthieu Jalibert], I'm not sure which one will play against us, but I think they're both exciting. "I think they may take a little longer to emerge but I think Macalou is already starting to find his feet at international level."
Wales Six Nations Tickets
In their opening game, Wales and Scotland meet at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Next England and Wales compete at Twickenham Stadium on February 10th. Ireland and Wales clash in Dublin at Aviva Stadium on February 24th. Next Wales plays Italy on March 11th and France on March 20th Both matches are at Millenium Stadium. Buy legal, 150% guaranteed Wales Six Nations tickets now online for great prices from LiveRugbyTickets.co.uk!
Wales v Scotland Tickets 3 Feb 2018 Millenium Stadium Cardiff, United Kingdom
England v Wales Tickets 10 Feb 2018 Twickenham Stadium Twickenham, United Kingdom
Ireland v Wales Tickets 24 Feb 2018 Aviva Stadium Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Wales v Italy Tickets 11 Mar 2018 Millenium Stadium Cardiff, United Kingdom
Wales v France Tickets 17 Mar 2018 Millenium Stadium Cardiff, United Kingdom