Williams left out by Wales

Blues flanker dropped as Gatland opts for youth

Last Updated: 24/01/11 10:00am

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Williams: Left out of Six Nations

Williams: Left out of Six Nations

Sky Bet

Wales coach Warren Gatland has sprung a surprise by leaving Lions flanker Martyn Williams out of his squad for the RBS Six Nations.

The 35-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker has won 98 caps for Wales and has featured on the last three British and Irish Lions tours, but there is no room for him in the Six Nations line-up.

Gatland's Wales kick-off the tournament against England in Cardiff on February 4, and leaving out Williams is the big news from his squad announcement.

Gatland has opted for youth as his openside options in the form of Williams' Blues colleague Sam Warburton and Scarlets' highly-rated Josh Turnbull.

It could signal the end of Williams' illustrious Test career, which began in 1996 and has seen him move to within two appearances of joining Gareth Thomas as only the second Welsh cap centurion.

Gatland's 28-man party includes five uncapped players in Turnbull, Scarlets back Rhys Priestland, front-row forwards Ryan Bevington and Scott Andrews, plus back-row prospect Toby Faletau.

Williams is not the only player to miss out, with the likes of Dan Biggar, Tom James, Aled Brew, Tom Prydie, Huw Bennett and Ian Gough also deemed surplus to requirements.

Absentees

Gatland also has to contend with a lengthy injury list, as absentees include props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, centre Tom Shanklin and wing George North, while scrum-half Richie Rees is banned until late March.

Experienced Sale Sharks number nine Dwayne Peel returns to the squad after missing out during the autumn series, joining fellow scrum-halves Mike Phillips and Tavis Knoyle, with other notable inclusions being fit-again Lions backs Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny.

And wing Shane Williams, Wales' record try-scorer, is also back just over two months after dislocating his shoulder during the defeat against world champions South Africa.

Williams launched his comeback with an impressive substitute's appearance for the Ospreys in their Heineken Cup victory over Toulon on Saturday.

Former Wales captain and back-row regular Ryan Jones, meanwhile, has been bracketed among the locks alongside Alun-Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies. Jones has featured in the second-row for the Ospreys with considerable success in recent weeks.

Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees has retained the captaincy of a squad that Gatland hopes can make its presence felt.

The coach also hinted that Williams could still have the chance to fight his way back into the reckoning.

Gatland said: "We have deliberately kept the squad as small as possible and have reverted back largely to the philosophy we had during the Grand Slam year in 2008.

"We want to keep intensity levels up in training and have ensured that we are not carrying players with injury.

Fighting fit

"Everyone here is fighting fit and able to take a full part and challenge each other for selection.

"Up front, it's well documented that we have lost a couple of players in the front row, but that gives opportunities to others to put their hands up, and we are pleased with the options we have got in the pack.

"The forwards have been going pretty well, and we have decided to give a couple of youngsters a chance in this tournament, but that doesn't mean there is no way back for those who have missed out.

"We are conscious that we need now to begin to realise our potential, and that means winning some games.

"It all starts against England at the Millennium Stadium in a fortnight, and they don't come much bigger than that."

Wales head into the tournament on the back of seven Tests without a win, having lost six and drawn one.

Their last victory came against Italy in the final game of last season's tournament.

Wales squad:

Backs: L Byrne (Ospreys), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), M Stoddart (Scarlets), S Williams (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys), R Priestland (Scarlets), S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys), D Peel (Sale Sharks), T Knoyle (Scarlets).

Forwards: P James (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), C Mitchell (Ospreys), R Bevington (Ospreys), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Powell (Wasps).

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