Ruddock Names 30 For Grand Slam Defence

Wales coach Mike Ruddock today announced the 30-man squad from which he will select the players to defend the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam title in the 2006 Championship

Wales coach Mike Ruddock today announced the 30-man squad from which he will select the players to defend the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam title in the 2006 Championship.

Bath flanker Gareth Delve joins three Llanelli Scarlets colleagues, hooker Matthew Rees, wing Mark Jones and fullback Barry Davies, as new faces to the squad which competed against New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Australia in the recent Autumn internationals at the Millennium Stadium.

Also returning from injury are RBS 6 Nations 2005 Grand Slam campaigners, Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins, Dragons wing Hal Luscombe and Scarlets flanker Dafydd Jones.

Unavailable for selection due to injury were Worcester Warriors prop Chris Horsman, Ospreys pair lock Brent Cockbain and back row Ryan Jones, Cardiff Blues centre Tom Shanklin and Newport Gwent Dragons duo lock Luke Charteris and fullback Kevin Morgan. 

“We are delighted to name a strong squad for this campaign in spite of our well publicised injury and suspension problems,” said Ruddock.

“We have lost players, but others have also come back into form and fitness which stands us in good stead to continue where we left off last season and play the style of high tempo, high energy rugby that gave us the Championship.

“Our first aim is to re-create that form from last season, next we aim to defend our title successfully and lastly we are aware that we must build momentum for the World Cup. 

“We are aiming high, Wales will go all out for a first win at Twickenham in the 6 Nations in our opening match, we are determined to defend our title and get a big result.

“Our record against England has not been great in this tournament, especially away from home, but we have our eye on an historic victory against all odds to kick-start our campaign.”

Wales have not beaten England at Twickenham in the RBS 6 Nations Championship, their only victory in the tournament in its current guise came at the Millennium Stadium last season when Gavin Henson kicked the winning 45 metre penalty to seal an 11-9 victory.

Henson and Ospreys colleague Ian Evans, who figured in the Autumn, were both ruled out of the selection process for the current squad due to respective suspensions making them unavailable for the first two matches of the campaign.

“There is every chance Ian (Evans) will be added to the squad once he has served his suspension,” added Ruddock.

“I’ve only named three out and out locks at the moment with the added option of Michael Owen as cover in that department. Having invested heavily in Ian in the Autumn and seeing him play so well for his region against Leicester in particular, we are keen to get him back on board as soon as possible.

“Gavin (Henson) has played less rugby and he needs to prove himself in his potential outing for the Ospreys on the 17th February, but the door is certainly open for him to also make a return.

Twelve players remain in the Wales squad from the starting line-up for last season’s winning opener against England at the Millennium Stadium, with the suspended Henson ruled out and injuries preventing lock Brent Cockbain and centre Tom Shanklin from featuring.

“We are pleased to welcome Dafydd Jones back, who played so well in our victory over England last season and he keeps Robin Sowden-Taylor out of the squad,” added Ruddock.

“Robin has a big future with Wales and will be pushing hard for a place on the summer tour, but Dafydd’s return enables us to think of Colin Charvis as an out and out open-side giving us plenty of options in the back row.

“And it is the first chance I’ve had to be able to pick Gareth Delve, who has needed game time since a long lay off, but he is catching the eye at the moment and it is nice to be able to call on someone of his quality. He looks to have a big future in front of him and I would like to thank Bath Rugby and its management team for the way they have nurtured his talent and supported him through his time out with injury. They have not tried to rush him back and hopefully, now that he is playing regularly, he will remain injury free for some time.

“Its great to see Mark Jones in the squad after two very serious knee operations,  he is a recognised finisher, try-scorer and line-breaker and you have to be impressed by his determination to get himself back on the field after such serious injuries. We also have the Scarlets to thank for the role they have played in supporting Mark’s return to fitness and form.

“Barry Davies and Matthew Rees are two players who have toured with us before and have shown good recent form to recapture their places in the squad. Barry also offers us an extra goal kicking option in the light of Gavin (Henson) being currently unavailable to us.

“Matthew gets the nod ahead of Huw Bennet who is still in our thoughts but will benefit from more game time for the Ospreys. With unfortunate injury to Barry Williams, Huw will be able to focus fully on maximising his game time with his region, which is something he’s not always been able to do.”

Luke Charteris recently injured his shoulder and could be out for up to six weeks, he joins long term injury victims Brent Cockbain (hamstring), Kevin Morgan (ankle), Chris Horsman (ankle), Tom Shanklin (knee) and Ryan Jones (shoulder) who are all unavailable for selection.

“There’s one more round of European Cup rugby this weekend and if anyone puts their hand up its still not too late to be added to the squad,”added Ruddock

Wales Squad:

Duncan Jones (Ospreys), John Yapp (Cardiff Blues), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Mefin Davies (Gloucester Rugby), Rhys Thomas (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), Ian Gough (Newport Gwent Dragons), Robert Sidoli (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Michael Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gareth Delve (Bath Rugby), Dafydd Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), Alix Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues), Colin Charvis (Newcastle Falcons), Dwayne Peel (Llanelli Scarlets), Gareth Cooper (Newport Gwent Dragons), Michael Phillips (Cardiff Blues), Stephen Jones (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Nicky Robinson (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys), Mark Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), Dafydd James (Llanelli Scarlets), Lee Byrne (Llanelli Scarlets), Ceri Sweeney (Newport Gwent Dragons), Hal Luscombe (Newport Gwent Dragons), Matthew Watkins (Llanelli Scarlets), Barry Davies (Llanelli Scarlets), Gareth Thomas (Toulouse - Captain)