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Five new faces for Wales

15th January 2013 11:06

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Josh Navidi for Cardiff Blues

In the mix: Josh Navidi

Wales have included Eli Walker, James King, Andrew Coombs, Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius in their Six Nations squad ahead of facing Ireland.

Captain Sam Waburton will lead the side as they prepare to defend their Six Nations title and will be joined in the squad by uncapped Blues back-row colleagues Navidi and Pretorius.

Second-row duo King (Ospreys) and Coombs (Dragons) have also been called into the squad for the first time alongside Ospreys wing Walker.

Coach Rob Howley has named an experienced contingent in the front-row which is bolstered by the return of Adam Jones (Ospreys) and Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), who feature alongside Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), Paul James (Bath), Scott Andrews (Blues) and Ryan Bevington (Ospreys). Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets) and Richard Hibbard (Ospreys) are the hookers.

Ian Evans (Ospreys), Lou Reed (Blues) and Josh Turnbull (Scarlets) who all featured in the end-of-year squad remain in the 35-man group and are joined by King and Coombs.

Former Wales U20 lock King, 22, has impressed for the Ospreys this term domestically and in Europe and will vie for a second row berth with Dragons forward Coombs. The 28-year-old, who can also play in the back-row, has caught the eye of the Welsh management this season. Injuries to Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Bradley Davies (Blues) and Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) have ruled them out of initial selection.

In the back-row, captain Waburton is named alongside experienced Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) and Aaron Shingler (Scarlets). Former Wales U20 captain Navidi is rewarded for his performances this season with his first call-up to the national squad as is 27-year-old Blues captain Pretorius. Born in Nelspruit, South Africa, Pretorius will add fire-power to the back row options and qualifies on residency.

In the backline Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Blues) and Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets) will contest the number nine jersey. They will be joined at half-back by Dan Biggar (Ospreys) and James Hook (Perpignan), with Rhys Priestland (Scarlets) unavailable due to injury.

The experience in the backline continues with Blues trio Alex Cuthbert, Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny all named alongside Jonathan Davies, George North Scott Williams and Liam Williams (all Scarlets). Clermont Auvergne full-back Lee Byrne returns to the squad.

The 2012 Grand Slam champions begin the defence of their title against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on February 2, before facing France in Paris the following weekend.

"We have put together a very experienced squad and complimented that by rewarding the in-form players with a call-up," said Howley.

"The players in the squad have been playing really well and we have been pleased with their individual performances.

"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."

Wales squad for Six Nations:

Forwards: 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, Toby Faletau, Andries Pretorius.

Backs: Tavis Knoyle, Mike Phillips, Lloyd Williams, Dan Biggar, James Hook, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Scott Williams, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Eli Walker, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Lee Byrne.

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