Six Nations
Five new faces for Wales
ESPN Staff
January 15, 2013
Cardiff Blues' back-row Andries Pretorius breaks away to start an attack. Cariff Blues v Montpellier, Heineken Cup, Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales, Saturday December 9, 2012.
South Africa-born Andries Pretorius has qualified for Wales on residency ground © PA Photos

Wales interim coach Rob Howley has named five new faces in the squad to begin the defence of their Six Nations crown, including South Africa-born Andries Pretorius.

The Cardiff Blues flanker is joined by his team-mate Josh Navidi, Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Ospreys lock James King and Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs in the 35-man squad. The 27-year-old was born in Nelspruit, but qualified for Wales through residency last month.

Australia-born King and Coombs have been given a chance after Wales were hit by a second row injury crisis that ruled out Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris. Back-rower Ryan Jones was also included in the squad despite him being a doubt for the opening two matches against Ireland and France after he dislocated a thumb in the Ospreys match against Leicester at the weekend.

"Everybody on the list is in contention for selection for the games against Ireland and France," Howley said. "Josh Navidi has played in the back row alongside and instead of Sam Warburton. He is in great form and deserves his chance.

"Andries will bring a bit of an x-factor to the squad and has proven himself as a leader as the captain of the Blues. He is dynamic, he has flourished as a captain and I know there is more to come from him."

Fullback Lee Byrne returns to the Welsh squad since the World Cup after consistently excellent performances for Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup and Top 14, though Leigh Halfpenny is likely to hold onto the No. 15 shirt after being one of the few players to impress during the four losses in the autumn.

"Lee is a player who has benefited from playing alongside world class players in France," Howley said. "It is great to have him back because his experience will really help us at this time."

Prop Adam Jarvis is another absentee, but his loss is offset by the return of Lion Adam Jones, who along with last year's player of the tournament Dan Lydiate, is hopeful of some gametime after both missed the autumn internationals.

"We have put together a very experienced squad and complimented that by rewarding the in-form players with a call-up," Howley said. "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 kick off the defence of their Six Nations crown in the tournament opener at home to Ireland on February 2. They then face France in Paris a week later, before travelling to Rome to take on Italy on February 23. They have a third away fixture to Scotland on March 9, before they finish at home to England in the penultimate match of the tournament.

Wales squad:

Backs: Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Eli Walker (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), James Hook (Perpignan), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues).

Forward: Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Adam Jones (Ospreys) Paul James (Bath), Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys) Lou Reed (Cardiff Blues), Ian Evans (Ospreys), James King (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Andries Pretorius (Cardiff Blues).

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