Jones to captain Wales

Date published: January 17 2017

Alun-Wyn Jones will lead Wales in the 2017 Six Nations Championship, with long-time skipper Sam Warburton stepping aside.

Seven uncapped players have been included in the squad, as Thomas Young, Olly Cracknell, Ashton Hewitt and Steff Evans all make it.

Fellow uncapped duo Rory Thornton and Aled Davies, who have both previously been part of the national set-up, are once again included.

Head coach Rob Howley has named nine front-row forwards in his squad. Rob Evans, who missed the end-of-year campaign due to injury returns and features alongside Nicky Smith, Scott Andrews, Rhodri Jones, Tomas Francis and Samson Lee. Kristian Dacey, Ken Owens and Scott Baldwin are the three hookers named.

Jones, who became Wales' 127th captain when he first took on the duties back in 2009 (against Italy in Rome, Wales' first opponents in this year's competition) and has led Wales on a total of five previous occasions, is joined by Jake Ball, Luke Charteris, Cory Hill and Thornton.

The uncapped back-row duo of Cracknell and Young are named alongside James King, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty, Taulupe Faletau and Sam Warburton.

Scarlets pair Gareth Davies and Aled Davies are included along with Rhys Webb. Ospreys duo Dan Biggar and Sam Davies are joined by uncapped fly-half Williams. Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams are named as the centres with Hewitt and Evans joined by Alex Cuthbert, George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny as the back-three contingent.

"I believe we have named an exciting and experienced squad for what is going to be a thrilling RBS 6 Nations Championship," said Howley.

"It's an honour to select Alun Wyn as captain. His vast experience, as a player and a leader will help drive this squad forward and I believe he will flourish in the role.

"Sam (Warburton) has led Wales more times than any other captain and had great success in the role, however we want him to concentrate on his game and to be the best player he can be. We had conversations during and since the autumn with Sam, no player is guaranteed their place in an international team and we want Sam to be playing his very best rugby and he agrees this is the best way forward.

"There is a flavour of freshness too in the squad, with seven uncapped players deserving their opportunity and it will be exciting to see how they perform in the international set-up.

"It is shaping up to be another great Six Nations. We have the all important carrot of Rugby World Cup seedings on the horizon post tournament and that is an important target for us, especially as we welcome the World's number 2 (England) and number 4 (Ireland) ranked sides to Principality Stadium over the coming months."

The squad will meet up next Monday (January 23) to begin preparations ahead of their opening Six Nations clash against Italy in Rome on Sunday, February 5.

Wales squad for Six Nations

Forwards: Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Ospreys), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Bath), Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), James King (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Olly Cracknell (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester), Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Thomas Young (Wasps)

Backs: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Aled Davies (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Sam Davies (Ospreys), Owen Williams (Leicester Tigers), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Ashton Hewitt (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Steffan Evans (Scarlets), George North (Northampton Saints), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon)

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