Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, and Jonathan Davies have all been announced in Walesâ€™ 6 Nations squad despite carrying injuries, with Warbuton again selected as captain.
Warren Gatland named an experienced 32-man squad for the tournament, with all of the Welsh contingent from the successful 2013 British and Irish Lions squad included.
It is the backline that probably features the most surprises, Rhodri Williams, Mike Phillips, and Rhys Webb are the selected scrum halves, meaning that there is no space for Cardiff Bluesâ€™ Liam Williams. At fly half Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland are selected, while James Hook will also cover fly half, among other positions.
Jamie Roberts is included in the squad despite missing large chunks of the season through injury, he is expected to return for his club, Racing Metro, on the 19th January against Clermont Auvergne though.
His Lions centre partner, Jonathan Davies, is not expected to be fit until some time in March, meaning that Scott Williams is the only categorically fit out and out centre in the squad.
Alex Cuthbert and George North are the only natural wingers included in the squad, though Liam Williams will provide cover there, with Leigh Halfpenny guaranteed to start at full back. Interestingly there is no space for Clermont Auvergneâ€™s Lee Byrne in the squad despite his announcement that he will be joining the Dragons, presumably in a bid to try to regain his Welsh spot.
The Lions front row of Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, and Adam Jones are all selected, though with Jenkins carrying an injury Paul James can expect plenty of game time. Also included in the front row are Ryan Bevington, Ken Owens, Emyr Phillips, Samson Lee and Rhodri Jones.
In the second row the Lions and Ospreys duo of Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans are both included, while last yearâ€™s surprise package Andrew Coombs is retained too and will challenge hard for a starting berth with Perpignanâ€™s Luke Charteris.
Ryan Jones will cover both the second row and back row, and is joined by the Scarlets Aaron Shingler, while the Lions quartet of Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau, and captian Sam Warburton are all in the squad, with back row selection likely to be one of the most hotly contested and debated areas of the team.
Speaking at his squad announcement Warren Gatland Walesâ€™ chances of retaining the Championship for an historic third year in a row:
“Last year was a fantastic year and I’m really excited to be back involved and this year is going to be a big challenge for us, we have got an opportunity to create history and that is something we will focus on and something that will give us extra motivation.â€
“We have got the three games at home and two tough away games but when we won the Grand Slam in 2008 and 2012 we had these fixtures so we know it can be done.â€
“The Six Nations is always a tough competition, you need a little bit of luck and momentum and that’s why we need to start well against Italy first up.â€
“Talking to the coaches we were a little bit slow starting last year and we know we need to start well on 1 February. We’ve picked a pretty experienced squad and kept it fairly tight at this stage.”
What do you think of the Welsh squad? Given the injuries, is the squad a little thin in the back division? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV
Wales 6 Nations Squad:
Forwards: Paul James (Bath), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets).
Backs: Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Perpignan), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets).