Warren Gatland today announced the 35-man Wales squad, captained by Sam Warburton, which will travel to Gdańsk, Poland, next week for the 2012 RBS 6 Nations training camp.
The Wales head coach has stuck with the majority of his much hailed Rugby World Cup side, adding just four players who did not feature in either his extended 45-man pre-RWC training squad or the December international against Australia at the Millennium Stadium at the start of this season.
Saracens prop Rhys Gill, uncapped Ospreys pair Ashley Beck and Rhys Webb and young Blues wing Harry Robinson are the only players in the squad who have not been in the international selector’s plans this season so far, with Gill earning his only international cap two years ago as a 2010 RBS 6 Nations replacement against Ireland.
Robinson, Webb, Beck, Scarlets prop Rhodri Jones and colleague Liam Williams – who both featured in the training squad which faced the Wallabies last month – and Scarlets lock Lou Reed (lock) are the only uncapped players selected.
The squad is set to be reduced again after Wales return from an intense seven-day period at the specialist training camp which utilizes cryotherapy chambers to improve recovery and allow players to cram more training sessions into a given day.
But Gatland is confident he has the right blend of youth, talent and experience to mount a highly credible challenge on the 2012 RBS 6 Nations title next month, which begins with a Celtic double header against Ireland, away, and Scotland, at home at the Millennium Stadium, on the first two weekends in February.
Three players – Mitchell, Gill and Sale Sharks back row Andy Powell – join the squad from English clubs and Wales have also called upon the services of France based trio James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne, with all six available to Wales for a reduced amount of time on the camp (three days), the maximum stipulated by IRB regulations.
“We have had to strike a balance with this squad, the majority are those players who excelled for Wales during the Rugby World Cup, but are also taking the opportunity to look at one or two youngsters before probably cutting our numbers even further before the start of the RBS 6 Nations,” said Gatland.
“We have kept a couple of older heads and we have injuries, with Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker and Luke Charteris all unavailable to us, but the emphasis on development and planning for the future is there for everyone to see.
“These are exciting times for Welsh rugby, we showed a huge amount of potential at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and we will be working as hard as humanly possible to ensure that we reach our potential in this year’s 6 Nations championship.”
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Sam Warburton (Captain)