Welsh Rugby
Howley has faith in new breed
ESPNscrum Staff
January 20, 2012
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley, Heineken Cup press conference, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, May 17, 2010
Rob Howley hopes that Wales can create competition for places © Getty Images

Wales coach Rob Howley is hoping that their continued promotion of young players will reap rewards during the Six Nations.

After their march to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals was powered by youngsters such as skipper Sam Warburton, No.8 Toby Faletau and winger George North, head coach Warren Gatland put further faith in the regions' young players by naming 21-year-old Ospreys centre Ashley Beck and Blues wing Harry Robinson, just 18, in his latest squad.

Wales head to Poland on Sunday for a week-long pre-tournament training camp and Howley hopes the presence of the new faces can provide stern competition for places and help give the squad the edge they showcased in New Zealand.

"It's very encouraging to see these youngsters coming through," he said. "I am delighted with Ashley Beck, he has played very well and has benefited from having a regular starting berth at the Ospreys.

"These new faces can put pressure on some of the more established members of the squad. For example, Ashley can put pressure on the likes of Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams, who all did so well at the World Cup.

"But we have to remember that we failed at the World Cup, we lost in the semi-final, and we have to reignite that enthusiasm which we had before the World Cup. Going to Poland is part of that and bringing in fresh faces makes people realise you are not guaranteed your position. Having that competition will be key to what we want to do in Poland and in the tournament itself."

Wales will this time head to Gdansk but will adopt a similar itinerary to that employed in Spala prior to the World Cup, including the use of cryotherapy chambers.

"Hopefully we can recreate that intensity on the players both physically and technically and it will help us to find the right selection for Ireland," Howley said. "This camp is really an MOT of a player. Some of the players have come back after the Rugby World Cup and had a rest before going into the Heineken Cup, but some were put straight in and have had an intense period with the number of games over Christmas, which is not an easy time for players.

"The first couple of days will be about finding where we are at physically and mentally, the players need to be able to switch off and that is part of the reason for taking them away out of Wales.

"We are going to a different place this time, we are going to Gdansk instead of Spala, which will help them and get them up and running for the tail of the week in readiness to come back and be ready to face Ireland, which could be a pivotal game in the Six Nations."

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