SA loosie steps up for Wales
Tue, 15 Jan 2013 12:16
We have a group of players who know how to win big matches
Wales have named South African-born loose forward Andries Pretorius in a 35-man squad for the defence of their Six Nations title.
The 27-year-old Cardiff Blues loose forward was one of five uncapped players chosen by head coach Rob Howley as they look to bounce back from a disappointing series of results last year.
Pretorius, born in Nelspruit, qualifies on residency for Wales and became available for selection last month.
The other uncapped players in the squad were Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Pretorius' fellow Cardiff loose forward Josh Navidi and locks James King (Ospreys) and Andrew Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Cardiff flank Sam Warburton retained the Wales captaincy.
Wales are currently without several locks - Alun-Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies - due to injury.
Meanwhile flyhalf Rhys Priestland and prop Aaron Jarvis are also sidelined ahead of the start of Wales's title defence at home to Ireland on February 2.
Former Wales scrumhalf Howley was able to recall fullback Lee Byrne, now with French club Clermont Auvergne, who has not featured in a Wales matchday squad since the 2011 World Cup, and Exeter prop Craig Mitchell.
But the most heartening front row news for a Wales squad who lost all of their end-of-year Tests was the return of star prop Adam Jones from injury.
Former Wales captain Ryan Jones was also included, although he is doubtful to play against both Ireland and then France a week later because of a dislocated thumb.
"We have put together a very experienced squad and complemented that by rewarding the in-form players with a call-up," said Howley, who will lead Wales in the Six Nations after head coach Warren Gatland was seconded to the British and Irish Lions for their tour of Australia later this year.
"We have a group of players who know how to win big matches and have experienced success. We are adding to that players who have stood out and performed well for the regions this season."
Since completing the Grand Slam, Wales have suffered a slump that has seen them lose seven straight Tests.
Their final match of this season's Six Nations sees them at home to England, a match with extra significance as both countries have been drawn in the same pool for the 2015 World Cup in England.
Wales Squad: Lee Byrne, Liam Williams, Luke Halfpenny, Eli Walker, George North, Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, James Hook, Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips, Tavis Knoyle, Lloyd Williams, Scott Andrews, Craig Mitchell, Adam Jones, Paul James, Gethin Jenkins, Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Ken Owens, Matthew Rees, Ryan Jones, Lou Reed, Ian Evans, James King, Andrew Coombs, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (captain) Toby Faletau, Andries Pretorius.
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