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Wales pick 7 uncapped players as Jones named captain

Tue, Jan 17, 2017, Posted by   print

2007 World Cup

Alun Wyn Jones will captain Wales in this season’s Six Nations Championship.

The 31-year-old Ospreys lock, who has won 105 caps, takes over from Sam Warburton in Wales’ senior playing role.

Warburton, who has skippered Wales a record 49 times since taking charge in June 2011, joins Jones in a 36-man Six Nations squad that was named by interim head coach Rob Howley on Tuesday.

The squad features seven uncapped players including Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester back Owen Williams.

The other uncapped players chosen by Howley are Ospreys flanker Olly Cracknell, Newport Gwent Dragons wing Ashton Hewitt, Scarlets wing Steff Evans, Ospreys lock Rory Thornton and Scarlets scrum-half Aled Davies.

Reflecting on the captaincy, Howley said: “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.”

Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton led his country outstandingly in the last two World Cup campaigns and was British and Irish Lions leader for the successful tour of Australia in 2013.

But Warburton is understood to be more concentrated on producing top form and securing a starting place in Wales’ highly-competitive back-row area.

Justin Tipuric starred in the openside flanker role during Wales’ autumn internationals this season, while Gloucester’s Ross Moriarty has also emerged as a major back-row force since being handed an opportunity at Test level.

Thomas Young is one of seven uncapped players named by Rob Howley. Stephen White – CameraSport via Getty Images

Warburton first skippered Wales in June 2011 at the age of just 22, and he led them into the World Cup in New Zealand last year.

Wales reached the semi-finals of that tournament – their best World Cup performance for 24 years – although from Warburton’s perspective it will be remembered for him being controversially sent off by Irish referee Alain Rolland during an agonising semi-final defeat against France in Auckland.

He also led Wales in three Tests during a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning campaign in 2012, and again when they retained the title a year later.

And Warburton was at the helm for Wales’ 2015 World Cup campaign, which produced a notable victory over England at Twickenham before a quarter-final exit against South Africa.

Jones, meanwhile, has led Wales five times in the past and captained the Lions in the series-clinching third Test win against Australia after Warburton missed out because of injury.

Howley has named nine front-row forwards in the squad, including Scarlets prop Rob Evans, who missed this season’s autumn Tests due to injury.

Young’s elevation, meanwhile, is just reward for a series of outstanding displays this term in Wasps colours.

Young, the son of Wasps rugby director and former Wales international prop Dai Young, has excelled in a Wasps side pushing hard for European and domestic honours.

And Gloucester-bound Owen Williams is another to be called up on the back of consistently strong Aviva Premiership form, offering Howley a quality act at fly-half or centre, plus another goalkicking option.

Wales kick off their Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome on Feb. 5, and Howley added: “I believe we have named an exciting and experienced squad for what is going to be a thrilling RBS 6 Nations Championship.

“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 number two (England) and number four (Ireland) ranked sides to the Principality Stadium over the coming months.”

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18492979/wales-name-7-uncapped-players-alun-wyn-jones-confirmed-captain
Wales pick 7 uncapped players as Jones named captain
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