AAP Rugby

Five debutants in Wales’ Six Nations squad

By AAP Newswire

Saracens centre Nick Tompkins and 18-year-old Gloucester winger Louis Rees-Zammit have been named in Wales' Six Nations rugby squad.

They are joined by three more uncapped players, Sale prop WillGriff John, Wasps lock Will Rowlands and Scarlets winger Johnny McNicholl, and scrum-half Rhys Webb has been recalled.

Webb last played Test rugby just over two years ago before joining French club Toulon and ruling himself out of Wales contention because he did not meet the minimum 60-cap selection criteria for players outside the country.

Tompkins, 24, represented England Saxons in 2016 and is an England Under-20 World Cup winner, but qualifies for Wales through his Wrexham-born grandmother.

He will give coach Wayne Pivac an additional midfield option, with centre Jonathan Davies sidelined for the entire Six Nations by injury and Owen Watkin recovering from a knee problem.

Watkin is named in the squad, along with Scarlets-bound Saracens back Liam Williams, who has not played since an ankle injury at the World Cup.

Rees-Zammit has lit up English rugby this season, scoring nine tries across 10 games for his club.

And that blistering form has attracted Pivac's attention, with the New Zealander naming a 38-man squad for his first campaign since succeeding Warren Gatland.

Tighthead John, 27, is rewarded for consistent form, although Rowlands is more of a surprise selection, while McNicholl started Wales' non-cap game in November against the Barbarians.

Elsewhere, fit-again Bath No.8 Taulupe Faletau - missing the World Cup with a collarbone injury - is back, with recalled back Owen Williams, but there are no places for props Nicky Smith and Samson Lee.

"A lot of time and effort has gone into selecting the squad," Pivac said. "All of the coaches have been out and about, seeing players in training, speaking with them, and we are pretty excited with the group we have got.

"We do have a couple of injuries, but we flip that into seeing it as an opportunity for some new players to impress, with not only the Six Nations in mind, but also longer term and for 2023.

"The Six Nations is hugely exciting for me. It is something I grew up watching from afar and it has such history attached to it. I'm really looking forward to the campaign."