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6 Nations: 4 French-based players and 5 new caps in Welsh squad

Ireland are first up for Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

Wales celebrate after beating Ireland in Dublin.
Wales celebrate after beating Ireland in Dublin.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

SAM WARBURTON WILL lead a strong Welsh squad, despite a recent crop of injuries, into this year’s Six Nations.

The Cardiff Blues flanker was named in a 35-man Wales squad, along with five new caps and four players that operate in the French Top 14 league.

Warburton will lead the side as they prepare to defend their 2012 title and will be joined in the squad by uncapped Blues back-row colleagues Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius.

Second row duo James King and Andrew Coombs have also been called into the squad for the first time alongside Ospreys wing Eli Walker.

Wales’ interim head coach has named an experienced contingent in the front row which is bolstered by the return of Adam Jones and Craig Mitchell.

The French-based players are prop Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), scrum-half Mike Phillips (Bayonne), James Hook (Perpignan) and Clermont fullback Lee Byrne.

Injuries to Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies and Alun Wyn Jones have ruled them out of initial selection but Ryan Jones, who dislocated a thumb on Ospreys duty at the weekend, has been included.

South African influence

Former Wales Under-20 captain Navidi is rewarded for his performances this season with his first call-up to the National squad as is 27 year-old Blues captain Pretorius.

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Born in Nelspruit, South Africa, Pretorius will add fire-power to the back row options and qualifies on residency.

“We have put together a very experienced squad and complimented that by rewarding the in-form players with a call-up,” said Howley.

“The players in the squad have been playing really well and we have been pleased with their individual performances.” He added:

We have a group of players who know how to win big matches and have experienced success.

“We are adding to that, players who have stood out and performed well for the regions this season.”

The 2012 Grand Slam Champions begin the defence of their title against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 2 February, before facing France in Paris the following weekend.

Wales squad

FORWARDS: Scott Andrews (Blues), Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Adam Jones (Ospreys) Paul James (Bath), Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys) Lou Reed (Blues), Ian Evans (Ospreys), James King (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Blues), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Andries Pretorius (Blues).

BACKS: Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets) Alex Cuthbert (Blues), George North (Scarlets), Eli Walker (Ospreys), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Lee Byrne (Clermont).

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Patrick McCarry

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