A Baker's Dozen Of Ospreys, One Blue And One
By - | 29/01/2008
Wales coach Warren Gatland has named a record 13 players from one region in his starting line-up to face England at Twickenham in the RBS Six Nations Championship opener on Saturday (Kick-off 4.30pm).
The Ospreys provide a baker's dozen of talent to Gatland's first national team selection with Llanelli Scarlets wing Mark Jones and Cardiff Blues flanker Martyn Williams the only players represented who do not play for the West Wales outfit which has championed rugby in the Neath and Swansea region so well this season.
Cardiff were the last side to have double figure representation in the Wales national side back in 1948 when they supplied 10 players for three Tests.
Gatland has made no secret of his admiration for the Ospreys' - and the Blues' - campaigns in Europe during his short time in charge of the national side and he says he has rewarded what he believes to be the form players in Wales.
"We want to stress that this is very much a 22-man selection, we have an extremely strong bench to call upon with three former British Lions in there if we need them," said Gatland.
"We haven't gone out to pick as many Ospreys as possible by design, the fact that there are 13 of them is probably more of a coincidence than anything else, but saying that you can't escape the fact that they've been one of the form sides in Europe so far this season."
The almost-all Ospreys back line sees Scarlet Jones selected on the left wing with Shane Williams switched to the right. The half-back pairing of Mike Phillips and James Hook will feed a centre partnership of Gavin Henson and Sonny Parker, with Lee Byrne selected as the last line of defence at full-back.
"Dwayne Peel was ruled out of selection for this week due to an injury he picked up in training to his right ankle, but we hope to have him back in contention for next week," added Gatland.
"Dwayne's injury gives Mike a chance to perform and James completes that partnership with Stephen Jones, having not played much rugby recently, taking up a place on the bench.
"We have been impressed with Lee Byrne in defence for the Ospreys and his confidence under the high ball in training and positional play has given him the nod at full back."
Up front the regional front row of Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett and Adam Jones provide the scrummaging power Gatland says will be all important against England. In the second row Ian Gough partners Alun-Wyn Jones and captain Ryan Jones joins Jonathan Thomas alongside Williams in the back row. The side retains seven of that which beat England 27-18 at the Millennium Stadium last March.
"We are going to Twickenham on a giant-killing mission, they are the big boys with the extensive resources and huge strength in depth, but we still give ourselves every chance," added Gatland.
"We are like a First Division club going to Manchester United in a cup tie and any suggestion that we are anything but underdogs in this game is ridiculous, but we do have the self belief to think that we are in with a chance against our bigger brother from over the border.
"They have an established coaching team, an established structure to their game all the resources at their disposal to produce a top four rugby team. We have had a short time together so far and have had to implement things quickly, by the end of the Six Nations we will probably be ready, but we are going to give it our best shot."
WALES: Lee Byrne; Shane Williams, Sonny Parker, Gavin Henson, Mark Jones; James Hook, Mike Phillips; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones ©.
REPLACEMENTS: Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins, Ian Evans, Alix Popham, Gareth Cooper, Stephen Jones, Tom Shanklin WALES
15 Lee BYRNE (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,041)
DoB: 01.06.80. 6'3" / 1.91m. 15st 4lbs / 97kgs International record: 14 caps (W 3, L 10, D 1; 10 pts - 2T)
14 Shane WILLIAMS (OSPREYS - Cap No 976)
DoB: 26.02.77. 5'7" / 1.71m. 12st 13lbs / 82kgs International record: 51 caps (W 24, L 25, D 2; 175 pts - 35T)
13 Sonny PARKER (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,007)
DoB: 27.08.77. 6'1" 1.86m. 15st 13lbs / 101kgs International record: 27 caps (W 12, L 15; 30 pts - 6T)
12 Gavin HENSON (OSPREYS - Cap No 990)
DoB: 01.02.82. 6'0" / 1.83m. 15st 7lbs / 98kgs International record: 23 caps (W 11, L 11, D 1; 130 pts - 3T,29C,18PG,1DG)
11 Mark JONES (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 984)
DoB: 07.11.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 14st 5lbs / 91kgs International record: 35 caps (W 13, L 20, D 2; 60 pts - 12T)
10 James HOOK (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,047)
DoB: 27.06.85. 6'0" / 1.83m. 14st 3lbs / 90kgs International record: 20 caps (W 6, L 13, D 1; 138 pts - 5T,25C,19PG,2DG)
9 Michael PHILLIPS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,022)
DoB: 29.08.82. 6'3" / 1.91m. 16st 6lbs / 104kgs International record: 28 caps (W 12, L 15, D 1; 15 pts - 3T)
1 Duncan JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 997)
DoB: 18.09.78. 6'0" / 1.83m. 17st 6lbs / 111kgs International record: 45 caps (W 18, L 25, D 2)
2 Huw BENNETT (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,017)
DoB: 11.06.83. 6'0" / 1.83m. 16st 12lbs / 107kgs International record: 14 caps (W 7, L 7)
3 Adam Rhys JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,018)
DoB: 08.03.81. 6'0" / 1.83m. 20st 5lb / 129kgs International record: 44 caps (W 22, L 20, D 2; 5 pts - 1T)
4 Ian GOUGH (OSPREYS - Cap No 964)
DoB: 10.11.76. 6' 6" / 1.98m. 18st 13lbs / 120kgs International record: 45 caps (W 18, L 24, D 3; 5 pts - 1T)
5 Alun-Wyn JONES (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,046)
DoB: 19.09.85. 6'5" / 1.96m. 18st 9lbs / 118kgs International record: 18 caps (W 6, L 12; 15 pts - 3T)
6 Jonathan THOMAS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,013)
DoB: 27.12.82. 6'5" / 1.96m. 17st 5lbs / 110kgs International record: 39 caps (W 17, L 20, D 2; 35 pts - 7T)
7 Martyn WILLIAMS (CARDIFF BLUES Cap No 944)
DoB: 01.09.75. 6'0" / 1.83m. 15st 13lbs / 101kgs International record: 76 caps (W 33, L 40, D 3; 68 pts - 13T, 1DG)
8 Ryan JONES (OSPREYS, CAPTAIN - Cap No 1,029)
DoB: 13.03.81. 6'5" / 1.96m. 18st 0lbs / 114kgs International record: 16 caps (W 8, L 7, D 1; 5 pts - 1T)
16 Matthew REES (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 1,033)
DoB: 09.12.80. 6'0" / 1.83m. 16st 9lbs / 106kgs International record: 16 caps (W 5, L 10, D 1; 10 pts - 2T)
17 Gethin JENKINS (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 1,006)
DoB: 17.11.80. 6'2" / 1.88m. 18st 9lbs / 118kgs International record: 53 caps (W 20, L 31, D 2; 15 pts - 3T)
18 Ian EVANS (OSPREYS - Cap No 1,045)
DoB: 04.10.84. 6'8" / 2.04m. 18st 3lbs / 116kgs International record: 8 caps (W 2, L 5, D 1; 5 pts - 1T)
19 Alix POPHAM (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 1,014)
DoB: 17.10.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 17st 4lbs / 110kgs International record: 32 caps (W 12, L 19, D 1; 20 pts - 4T)
20 Gareth COOPER (GLOUCESTER RUGBY - Cap No 985)
DoB: 07.05.79. 5'7" / 1.71m. 13st 6lbs / 85kgs International record: 35 caps (W 17, L 18; 35 pts - 7T)
21 Stephen JONES (LLANELLI SCARLETS - Cap No 966)
DoB: 08.12.77. 6'1" / 1.86m. 14st 12lbs / 94kgs International record: 66 caps (W28, L36, D2; 569 pts - 6T,106C,106PG,3DG)
22 Tom SHANKLIN (CARDIFF BLUES - Cap No 993)
DoB: 24.11.79. 6'2" / 1.88m. 15st 9lbs / 99kgs International record: 47 caps (W 20, L 26, D 1; 85 pts - 17T)