RBS Six Nations 2014 - Wales preview
Last Updated: 30/01/14 11:38pm
Can Wales makes Six Nations history and win three titles in a row?
Winning the Six Nations is a tough challenge at the best of times and all the off-the-field wrangling will not have helped the Wales squad focus. However this is a well-established squad who may react positively to leaving the politics behind them and do their talking on the field.
Wales will still be disappointed that they failed to win against a southern hemisphere side in the autumn internationals but all those psychological hurdles that they still have to overcome in order to beat the southern giants, are non-existent when it comes to their northern neighbours. They have won nine out of their last ten games against northern hemisphere teams and no matter what happened in the autumn, Wales will be confident going into this tournament.
Waren Gatland has got some injury concerns - most notably Jonathan Davies who will be sorely missed. However they have some great strength in depth and are welcoming back the likes of Jamie Roberts and Adam Jones. The resurgence of Alun-Wyn Jones and Richard Hibbard may have come too late for the Ospreys' Heineken Cup campaign, but bodes well for Wales. Gatland will also have to decide on who his fly-half is - both Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland are in fine form however the latter's fluctuating form may see Biggar get the starting berth.
As well as having a good solid pack they also have some superb attacking prowess - George North has established himself as the most exciting game breaker in Europe at the moment. They also have the boot of Leigh Halfpenny who will not let them down. They kick their campaign off in Italy but it is round two that will set them up - an away game to Ireland that they will have to win if they are to make Six Nations history.
Last season: Champions
Head coach: Warren Gatland: "We've got a chance to create some history, to do something special and [something] no team's ever done. From a coaching perspective it's nice to have that focus to start the campaign."
Captain: Sam Warburton: "We always look forward to the Six Nations; it's what you're measured on. It's the one we always look forward to."
Ground: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Sky Bet odds: 2/1
Fixtures: Feb 2 v Italy (h), Feb 8 v Ireland (a), Feb 21 v France (h), Mar 9 v England (a), Mar 15 v Scot (h)
Key man: Leigh Halfpenny - The 2013 Lions player of the series needs to be at his very best if Wales want to get that unprecedented third title in a row. A world-class player who has the ability to produce the goods when the pressure is on. He will play a key role in their success.
Forwards: P James (Bath), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), R Bevington (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), E Phillips (Scarlets), A-W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Perpignan), I Evans (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), D Lydiate (Racing Metro), A Shingler (Scarlets), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Backs: L Williams (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), G North (Northampton), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Racing Metro), J Davies (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Racing Metro), R Williams (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys).