Warren Gatland names a young Wales squad
The presence of two teenage wingers, as well as the absence of both Dwayne Peel and Mike Phillips from the Wales six nations squad were the major talking points as Warren Gatland announced a 35-man pool ahead of the opening game with England on February 6th.
Peel, who limped off against the Blues at the weekend joins Phillips on the sidelines and with neither likely to be fit for the opening two fixtures Gareth Cooper will vie with team-mate Richie Rees and the Scarlets youngster Martin Roberts for the no.9 shirt.
Meanwhile 19-year-old Kristian Phillips and his 17-year-old Ospreys team mate Tom Prydie, who play the majority of their Rugby in the Welsh Premiership, received shock call-ups to the national team.
But Gatland, who has shown his desire to involve young players with the senior squad in the past, has opted to take a closer look at two of the more exciting prospects in the Principality.
When quizzed on the squad the Kiwi, who lead Wales to a Grand Slam two years ago, said that the selections reflected the looming presence of the forthcoming World Cup which takes place late in 2011.
“We are now at the beginning of our countdown to the world cup and this slightly larger squad reflects that,” he said. “We have brought in some youngsters to put some pressure on some of our senior players and to help increase the depth we have in certain positions.
This absence of depth has long been a concern amongst Celtic nations in particular and Wales are working hard to bridge the momentous gap between the likes of Wales and countries such as England and France.
But a small player base combined with the heavy injury toll which blights the modern game has on many occasions forced Gatland’s hand. For instance the selection of two English based props, Eifion Lewis-Roberts and the uncapped Rhys Gill is a conscious reversal of policy from his first two years in charge.
Back then he idealistically attempted to thwart the exodus of top players from the Magners League by threatening to leave out players from outside Wales. The policy has been relatively successful but with such a strain placed on resources ahead of this year’s championship, Galtand has performed a u-turn.
But is another exile, Dwayne Peel who Gatland will miss the most. Peel has been second or third choice throughout Gatland’s reign with the unconventional Mike Phillips ahead of him in the pecking order, but he was widely expected to start at Twickenham in just under three weeks time.