Wales rugby interim head coach Rob Howley has named his squad for the upcoming Six Nations tournament and with it, has named Alun Wyn Jones as captain.
31-year-old Jones has long been assumed as the successor to Sam Warburton and will be regarded as a strong choice by the interim boss. Warburton had hinted he was set to step down in order to focus on giving his best to the side.
Reported by WalesOnline, Howley had this to say about his new captain:
“It’s an honour to select Alun Wyn as captain. His vast experience, as a player and a leader will help drive this squad forward and I believe he will flourish in the role.
“Sam (Warburton) has led Wales more times than any other captain and had great success in the role, however we want him to concentrate on his game and to be the best player he can be. We had conversations during and since the autumn with Sam, no player is guaranteed their place in an international team and we want Sam to be playing his very best rugby and he agrees this is the best way forward.”
Here is the squad in full.
— Welsh Rugby Union ? (@WelshRugbyUnion) January 17, 2017
The 36 man squad consists of 15 backs and 21 forwards and is a good mix of experience and youth.
Howley has named seven uncapped players in the squad, Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Olly Cracknell (Ospreys), Thomas Young (Wasps) , Aled Davies (Scarlets), Owen Williams (Leicester), Ashton Hewitt (Dragons) and Steffan Evans (Scarlets).
Of his squad selection, Howley says,
“There is a flavour of freshness too in the squad, with seven uncapped players deserving their opportunity and it will be exciting to see how they perform in the international set-up.
“It is shaping up to be another great Six Nations. We have the all important carrot of Rugby World Cup seedings on the horizon post tournament and that is an important target for us, especially as we welcome the World’s no2 (England) and no4 (Ireland) ranked sides to Principality Stadium over the coming months.”
George North has been named as a wildcard as he continues to recover from yet another head injury, suffered only six weeks ago while playing for the Northampton Saints against Leicester Tigers.
Joining North as wildcards are Taulupe Faletau and Jamie Roberts.
The hard-hitting number 8 is currently sidelined with a knee injury but it is hoped he can return in time to play a part in Wales’ campaign, while Roberts earns his place through his vast experience and proven game-changing abilities.
Howley has named a strong side for this year’s championships and following a mediocre November test series, he will be hoping that his side can turn in a series of strong performances that will once again leave them contesting the title come the end of March.
For those named in the squad, all will be keen to secure a starting XV spot as with the added incentive of selection for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in the summer, there is much to play for on a personal level.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena