Wales - No place for Peel
British Lions number nine dropped for RBS Six Nations
Last Updated: 19/01/09 12:46pm
Peel: Left out
Sale Sharks scrum-half Dwayne Peel has been omitted from Wales' squad for the RBS Six Nations.
"We will accept the challenge of being favourites - it's a new experience for a lot of coaches, as well as players. We have to make sure we are mentally right for Scotland."
Warren Gatland Quotes of the week
Ospreys number nine Mike Phillips has returned to fitness after missing the autumn internationals and gets the nod instead from coach Warren Gatland along with Gloucester's Gareth Cooper.
Cardiff Blues' Heineken Cup hero Bradley Davies has been rewarded for his performance at Kingsholm meanwhile, although he is the only uncapped player named in Gatland's 28-man party.
Injuries to Ospreys lock Ian Evans and prop Duncan Jones have meant there has had to be some adjustment, but fit-again Ospreys trio Phillips, Gavin Henson and Jonathan Thomas are sure to give the squad a lift.
Ospreys full-back Lee Byrne is also included despite being forced to leave the field with an ankle injury against Perpignan at the weekend and Mark Jones is also selected after recovering from appendicitis.
Gatland admits he had a hard task whittling the numbers down.
"There are a few important players back from injury," he said. "Huw Bennett is back with us, and the likes of Mike Phillips, Gavin Henson and Jonathan Thomas have been unavailable to us for some time now, so we think they are going to really strengthen the squad.
"We had a very hard decision to make at scrum-half, but were greatly impressed by the performances of Mike Phillips last year during the Six Nations and felt Gareth Cooper has done well, both on tour in the summer and in the autumn series.
"We've tried to keep the squad relatively similar to the last Six Nations campaign. Part of that philosophy is to keep everything nice and tight and everyone in the squad feeling there is an opportunity to play for Wales, and also make it difficult for people to come into the squad - make players really earn the right.
"We will accept the challenge of being favourites - it's a new experience for a lot of coaches, as well as players. We have to make sure we are mentally right for Scotland.
"It will be very much like last year - win the first game and create momentum for success, lose that first game and we come home to England and away to France and it could be a completely different story."
The 2008 Grand Slam winners get underway against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 8 as they look to establish themselves as the strongest team in the northern hemisphere.
Wales squad - Backs: L Byrne (Ospreys), M Jones (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), A Bishop (Ospreys), G Henson (Ospreys), J Hook (Ospreys), S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Gloucester), M Phillips (Ospreys).
Forwards: G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), A Jones (Ospreys), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Rees (Scarlets), H Bennett (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Thomas (Ospreys), D Jones (Scarlets), A Powell (Cardiff Blues), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff Blues).