Just days after the Ospreys secured a record fourth league title with a dramatic win over European champions Leinster in Dublin, the region once again make the largest contribution to the national squad with nine players from the PRO12 winning 23 named in the Wales squad to play the Barbarians at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 2 June (Kick-off 2.00pm).
There is a well deserved return to the Welsh starting XV for Dan Biggar and Andrew Bishop in the backs, while up front, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Justin Tipuric and Ryan Jones start. On the bench Richard Hibbard, Paul James and Rhys Webb also feature. The nine will come up against two fellow Ospreys, with Sunday’s two-try hero Shane Williams and prop Duncan Jones lining up for the Baa-Baas.
Blues wing Harry Robinson and Scarlets pair, full back Liam Williams and prop Rhodri Jones, will all make their first appearance in Wales colours, while Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees will make his ninth appearance as captain.
“The Ospreys have been in a rich vein of form and their victory over Leinster last weekend to take the RaboDirect PRO12 title was a boost for the whole of Welsh rugby,” said Wales caretaker head coach Rob Howley.
“Dan and Andrew have been playing particularly well and we are looking forward to seeing both players in a Welsh shirt again.
“We have picked a side on form, with an eye on bringing players through for the future, but very much with the intention of getting the summer campaign off to a winning start.”
“We have an opportunity against the Barbarians to get an important summer series off to a winning start,” added Howley.
“We have momentum from the RBS 6 Nations and the Ospreys have added to that with a great win in our domestic competition.
“We are now looking for the next step and a victory on home soil against a formidable Barbarians team before we set off for Australia.”
Ospreys prop Ryan Bevington will remain in Wales as 23rd man for the Barbarians fixture with the remaining 16 players from the 38-man training squad named due to leave for Australia tomorrow (Thursday) to begin preparations for the 1st Test in Brisbane.
The final members of Wales’ tour party, which will total 34 players, will be named at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday immediately after the Baa-Baas fixture, with the team to play the Wallabies in that first match due to be named the following Thursday.
If Williams appears from the bench as expected he will be the first Welsh forward to win 100 caps and join Gareth Thomas (Bridgend/Cardiff/Celtic Warriors/Toulouse) in second place behind Wales' most capped player Stephen Jones (Llanelli/Llanelli Scarlets/ASM Clermont Auvergne), who has appeared 104 times.
WALES: Liam Williams (Scarlets); Harry Robinson (Blues), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan), Aled Brew (Dragons); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Blues); Rhys Gill (Saracens), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, captain), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
?REPLACEMENTS:Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Martyn Williams (Blues), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Adam Warren (Scarlets), Will Harries (Dragons)