Wales full-back Liam Williams is set to miss the Six Nations matches against Ireland and France as he continues to be troubled by an ankle injury.

The British and Irish Lion full-back has been out of action since he was injured in training before the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa last October.

Leigh Halfpenny donned the number 15 shirt in the absence of Williams in a 42-0 thrashing of Italy at the Principality Stadium last weekend and could get the nod again for a huge clash with Ireland in Dublin.

Wales will be hoping Williams is fit to return when they face World Cup runners-up England at Twickenham on March 7.

"He’s struggling a bit at the moment," Wales defence coach Byron Hayward said of Williams.

"It's probably a bit too early for Liam. We're looking at the fourth and fifth game in the Championship for when he'll be available.

"Certainly not [as soon as the defending champions hoped], but the boys went well last weekend, Leigh had a great game at full-back, though it would be nice to get Liam back, obviously."

Hayward did not rule out Williams getting some game time with Saracens before making an international comeback, saying in a news conference: "That will be governed by the medical team in terms of where he's at and how he progresses in the next couple of weeks. It's a possibility, certainly."

Robbie Henshaw and Peter O'Mahony come into the Ireland starting line-up to face Wales in the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, while Max Deegan could make his debut off the bench.

Centre Henshaw will play alongside Bundee Aki after Garry Ringrose suffered a hand injury during a 19-12 victory over Scotland on the opening day of the tournament last weekend.

O'Mahony gets an opportunity in the back row, with Caelan Doris ruled out due to the head injury he suffered on his debut in Dublin against Gregor Townsend's Scots.

CJ Stander switches to number eight in the absence of Doris, with Josh van der Flier named at openside.flanker.

They are the only alterations to Ireland's starting XV for the clash with the defending champions.

The uncapped Max Deegan and vastly experienced wing Keith Earls feature among the replacements named by head coach Andy Farrell, who stuck to his approach of making an early team announcement.

Ireland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (captain), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Max Deegan, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Keith Earls.

Ireland centre Garry Ringrose will miss the Six Nations matches against Wales and England with a hand injury.

Ringrose was replaced at half-time in Ireland's 19-12 victory over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday with a suspected broken finger.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed the Leinster back has since undergone a procedure on his hand and will not be available for selection until they face Italy in Dublin on March 7.

However, the IRFU said Ringrose will "stay connected with the squad as a member of the leadership group".

Uncapped back-rower Will Connors has been added to the Ireland squad ahead of the clash with reigning champions Wales on Saturday.

Tadhg Furlong's fitness will be monitored after he complained of calf tightness against Scotland, while Dave Kilcoyne and Caelan Doris will follow graduated return to play protocols as part of the HIA process.

 

Ireland squad to face Wales:

Backs: Will Addison, Bundee Aki, Billy Burns, Ross Byrne, Andrew Conway, John Cooney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Stuart McCloskey, Luke McGrath, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale.

Forwards: Will Connors, Max Deegan, Ultan Dillane, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Dave Heffernan, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jack O'Donoghue, Peter O'Mahony, Tom O'Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac has described Josh Adams as one of the best players in the world after his hat-trick in the 42-0 Six Nations win over Italy.

It was Adams and fly-half Dan Biggar who accounted for all of Wales' points in the opening 40 minutes as they effectively sealed victory thanks to the former's first-half brace.

Nick Tompkins added a try on his debut and, after having one ruled out by the TMO, George North touched down to clinch a bonus point, before Adams completed his hat-trick after the 80th minute.

Adams was the top try scorer at the World Cup in Japan last year and Pivac is no doubt that he is among the very best on the planet.

"On the biggest stage in world rugby he was the top try scorer, so he has got to be right up there," Pivac told a media conference. "That record speaks for itself.

"What I liked was his last try and he could have easily just parked up on his wing, but he came close to the ruck and scored late on.

"With Stephen Jones running our attack and the way we want to play the game, wingers get more opportunity potentially, so I think he will enjoy the way we play."

Pivac also praised replacement centre Tompkins, saying: "Nick showed the time he was on the field he has a lot of talent and ability. A lot of people know now who Nick Tompkins is."

Biggar pulled off a stunning pass between his legs for Adams' second try, much to the delight of Pivac.

"It just shows the confidence he has at the moment," he said. "Dan is a very confident guy and he knew exactly where his wing was and the situation, and he had the skill to execute it brilliantly. I was very pleased with Dan all around and he had a very good game.

"He was one of the guys who was leading our line speed and I thought he had a pretty good all-round game."

Italy's interim head coach Franco Smith was full of praise for Wales' display and had no complaints with the result.

"Wales are a top side," he said. "It's a pity that we had to have our first start in this way against them.

"But then again, I'd rather lose against the best the way we did than maybe just lose against another team that is not in the same form that this team is. I think Wales rugby can be proud of this group of men they've got here."

Josh Adams scored a hat-trick as Wales eased to a routine 42-0 win over Italy at the Principality Stadium in Wayne Pivac's first Six Nations game in charge. 

Playing in their first tournament game since their fourth-place finish at the World Cup last year, Wales always had too much for the Azzurri, interim coach Franco Smith's side offering little resistance in a one-sided contest.

It was Adams and fly-half Dan Biggar who accounted for all of Wales' points in the opening 40 minutes as they effectively sealed victory thanks to the former's first-half brace.

Nick Tompkins added a try on his debut and, after having one ruled out by the TMO, George North touched down to clinch a bonus point, before Adams completed his hat-trick after the 80th minute.

Italy's indiscipline put them on the back foot in the opening stages and three Biggar penalties gave Wales control.

Wales tightened their grip on the contest with a wonderful opening try of the tournament, putting the ball through hands to send Adams free down the left before the wing finished clinically in the corner.

If that was impressive, the set-up for Adams' second was nothing short of incredible as Biggar sent him over in the same area of the field with an instinctive pass through his legs.

After missing his first conversion attempt, Biggar made no mistake with the second to make it 21-0 at the interval.

Tompkins raced clear after a superb sidestep for his first international try on the hour mark and Wales did not take their foot of the gas.

North was denied after the TMO spotted a knock-on in the build-up to his 63rd-minute effort, but the centre secured maximum points for Wales when he worked his way over from close range.

There was still time for Adams to provide further reason to celebrate as he came in from the left and barged over to complete his treble in a match that provided little indication as to how Wales will fare in next week's meeting with Ireland.

Four head coaches will take charge of their first Six Nations matches when the 2020 tournament gets under way this weekend. 

Wales start the defence of their title against Italy in the opening match of the competition at the Principality Stadium on Saturday with Wayne Pivac at the helm and Franco Smith in charge of the Azzurri on an interim basis. 

Ireland begin Andy Farrell's tenure against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium later in the day, while France start a new dawn with Fabien Galthie in command against England at Stade de France on Sunday.

Here we take a look at the prospects of each nation for the 2020 campaign.

 

ENGLAND

Who's in charge?

There was frenzied speculation over the future of Eddie Jones after England were soundly beaten by South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

The canny Australian stayed in the role, though, and is contracted until 2021, but it remains to be seen if he will still be in charge at the next World Cup in France two years later.

Who's the key man?

Tom Curry was outstanding on the biggest stage of all in Japan, and the back-row will have a major part to play in the England's bid to win the Six Nations for the first time since 2017.

Curry is expected to deputise from the injury Billy Vunipola against Les Bleus in the opening round, giving another example of his versatility.

What can they achieve this year?

The World Cup runners-up should be fuelled by the agony of coming so close to being crowned world champions three months ago and have been installed as favourites.

Jones is determined to make England the "greatest team ever" and he must hope his Saracens contingent are not affected by the European champions' salary-cap saga.

 

FRANCE

Who's in charge?

Former France captain Galthie was charged with the task of replacing Jacques Brunel after the World Cup and has put his faith in youth with an eye on the next World Cup on home soil. The appointment of Shaun Edwards as defence coach could be a masterstroke.

Who's the key man?

Teddy Thomas is a livewire wing who has been in fine form for Racing 92 this season and should show what he is capable after missing out on the World Cup.

What can they achieve?

It is difficult to know which France side will turn up at the best of times and, although there is an air of optimism with young players getting their chance, that could make them even more difficult to predict.

A showdown with England in Paris grants them a great opportunity to make a huge statement, but Les Bleus face a tricky trip to Cardiff after hosting Italy.

 

IRELAND

Who's in charge?

Farrell has earned his stripes as an assistant with Ireland, England and Saracens, and he will have plenty of experience under his belt for his first role as head coach after replacing Joe Schmidt.

Who's the key man?

James Ryan has been outstanding for Ireland and Leinster, and Farrell will rely on the towering lock to maintain his high standards, with powerful ball-carrying and set-piece acumen.

What can they achieve?

After the disappointment of bowing out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage and failing to retain their Six Nations title last year, Ireland will be a major danger if they can hit the ground running under Farrell.

The 2018 champions have strength in depth and should mount a strong challenge, with a home clash against Wales in the second round followed by a trip to Twickenham potentially decisive. 

 

ITALY

Who's in charge?

South African Smith stepped in for the Six Nations after a successful spell with the Cheetahs, taking over from Conor O'Shea.

Who's the key man?

Luca Bigi has been handed the captaincy with Sergio Parisse, set to make his swansong at Stadio Olimpico, retiring, and the hooker must drive the perennial recipients of the wooden spoon on and show they are up for the battle.

What can they achieve ?

A victory would be an achievement in itself given Italy have not come out on top in a Six Nations match since stunning Scotland in 2015.

 

SCOTLAND 

Who's in charge?

Gregor Townsend is under pressure to turn Scotland's fortunes around after they failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Who's the key man?

Stuart Hogg has taken over as skipper, and the full-back must show the sort of form that made him a British and Irish Lion.

What can they achieve?

There is no doubt Scotland have plenty of talent to call upon and can be a joy to watch on their day, but they have been shown to have a soft centre time and again.

Finn Russell will be a big loss for the first game against Ireland after he was sent home for disciplinary reasons.

 

WALES

Who's in charge?

Pivac succeeded long-serving fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland after the World Cup, and the former Scarlets boss has a hard act to follow.

Who's the key man?

Liam Williams will miss the first match of the tournament against Italy, but the inspirational full-back should be fit for the trip to face Ireland the following week, and Wales will need him to stay fit in their quest for back-to-back titles.

What can they achieve?

Depending on how they adapt to life under Pivac, Wales ought to mount a strong defence of their crown after securing a Grand Slam last year but face tough away assignments against Ireland and England.

Wayne Pivac on the touchline; the Principality Stadium crowd brimming with back-to-school excitement.

A new dawn was arriving for Welsh rugby as Saturday's Six Nations opener against Italy came into view.

Yet this story isn't about coach Pivac, nor new dawns, nor the fact we've reached the 20-year anniversary of the Cardiff stadium staging its first match in the championship.

Coaches come and coaches go and Pivac will have his day and leave; not even Warren Gatland was inclined to go on forever on the touchline.

And the inevitable truth is that stadiums decay, to be replaced by grander, more suitable settings for world-class sport. Which themselves will one day lose their lustre.

The St Helen's ground in Swansea and Cardiff's Arms Park used to proudly house the hallowed turf for Welsh rugby.

Some things, though, have a greater permanence. And what endures perhaps best of all in Welsh rugby is its carved-in-stone connection to the country's richly poetic and musical history, most pertinently the hymns and folk songs that permeate from Llanelli to Llanberis, Cardiff Bay to Cardigan Bay.

That time-honoured beacon of Welsh society - the male voice choir - remains as much a part of the rugby fabric as it ever was. This story celebrates the glorious communion between song and Welsh rugby.

Slated for success

In the heart of Snowdonia lies Blaenau Ffestiniog, a largely Welsh-speaking small town renowned for centuries for its vast slate mines, and home today to the Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir.

The Welsh Rugby Union invites such choirs on a rota basis to perform within the stadium before its home matches, knowing their presence rouses Cardiff crowds in such a way they become the team's 16th man.

Soon it will be the turn of Brythoniaid, seven-time winners of the National Eisteddfod. They are booked in for the match against Scotland in March.

"We've done it before," said Phill Jones, the choir secretary.

"Most of the choir are fanatical rugby supporters anyhow, so to be allowed to get on the pitch and be allowed to sing to 70,000 people is a bit of an experience."

 

Have the Welsh crowds lost their voice?

There have been questions asked recently about the atmosphere at Wales' home games.

Journalist and Pontypool rugby club media man Greg Caine argued on the Nation Cymru website that priorities were changing, and that Wales crowds had lost their voice, even at last year's Grand Slam decider against Ireland.

He wrote: "... the singing was seriously lacking, and it's almost become a cliche, but [again] many really were more interested in going to the bar than watching the match."

He pointed to a "day out" culture and added: "Whilst this isn't necessarily a bad thing – people are welcome to enjoy something they've paid for however they want – a symptom of the aforementioned attitude to the match is the general lack of singing, and it's that which I find most disappointing and demoralising when attending Wales matches."

Most surprisingly of all, Caine claimed Wales football supporters have developed a "wider repertoire" of songs and chants than their rugby counterparts.

"It does [surprise me]. I would say quite the opposite to be honest with you," Brythoniaid's Jones told Omnisport.

Such an argument could run and run; what defies debate is the sense that song is deeply ingrained within Welsh sporting culture, whatever the shape of the ball.

"The English only have one song"

"Anywhere, at any standard of rugby, you get singing in the crowd," said Jones. "We've got a local rugby team called Bro Ffestiniog, and even if the crowd might only be 50 or maybe less, they'll sing like mad.

"We'll take a choir, just to give them entertainment and help along as well, and they'll say it makes a heck of a difference.

"You'll only hear one song being sung in an English match and that's the chariot one ['Swing Low, Sweet Chariot']. You listen to a Welsh crowd and you'll get such variation. I think it's something we're very good at, and the Scottish and the French are as well."

Jones says singing in Wales has always come with a rivalry aspect.

"You go back to the days when there was real hardship," he said. "In those days, the chapels and churches were at their strongest, where you had congregations in the hundreds and singing was a part of life.

"Where we sing, there were two huge quarries with 7,000 men working, and at each level of the mine, there was a shed where they would congregate having lunch, and they used to have singing competitions between each shed.

"It was tradition back then, and that's how the choir started. Most of the big choirs in Wales are associated with areas where coal mining and chapels were very strong. There's a lot less now than there used to be.

"We're not so bad, but we used to have massive choirs; I would say 120 to 130 [people]. These days people have other things to do."

Together, this is what we'll do

The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir struck lucky when they were invited to perform at Festival No 6 in Portmeirion, performing 'Go West' with the Pet Shop Boys in 2014 and joining a 2017 line-up that featured The Flaming Lips and Rag'n'Bone Man.

"Because of that, we got more wanting to be involved with the choir," Jones recalls. "We were down to about 45 in the choir at one stage but we're now up to around 75, so you have to be prepared to change. Not change too much, but you've got to adapt."

Will the national anthem - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - ring out inside rugby stadiums in 50 years' time? Will future generations still incant Calon Lan, these days a favourite of so many supporters? Might Bread of Heaven still be bellowed from the stands towards the end of this century?

Will Max Boyce's Hymns and Arias always resonate?

"I would think so, I would hope so anyway," said Jones. "The choirs are getting smaller, so you might not have the same size of choir that are taking part now. But even though they get smaller, I think they'll still go on."

Gary Morgan, secretary of the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir, agrees.

"Those songs are there and they're not going away," said Morgan.

"Some of our choir might groan a little when it comes to rehearsing the same old hymns, but those are the ones the crowds want and they enjoy them so much. And when on match days the crowd are singing them back, it's just a moment of great pride.

"We sang at Gavin Henson's wedding last year. People always love to hear a Welsh male voice choir on a big occasion."

But not only are the choirs shrinking, they are ageing, too, which has to be a worry.

"It's a real struggle to find anyone under the age of 40 wanting to join," Morgan said. "I couldn't give the choir the commitment I do now until I retired from teaching.

"But I can't imagine the Arms Park or the Principality Stadium without those songs. They're such an vital part of Welsh rugby life."

Wales begin the defence of their Six Nations crown on Saturday as they welcome Italy to the Principality Stadium.

Having won their first title in six years in 2019, it is a new era for Wales under Wayne Pivac, who replaced his compatriot Warren Gatland.

England finished as runners up last year, and Eddie Jones' team – champions in 2016 and 2017 – start their campaign against France in Paris.

Meanwhile, this year's Centenary Quaich between Ireland and Scotland takes place in Dublin, with Andy Farrell getting his first taste of Six Nations action as a head coach.

With the help of Opta, we take a statistical look at the opening round of matches.


Wales v Italy

- Holders Wales have won 17 of their 20 Six Nations matches against Italy, including their past 12 in a row, last losing this fixture in 2007. 

- At home, Wales – who claimed a Grand Slam in 2019 – have 14 wins from their past 16 games in the Six Nations, their two defeats in that time both coming against England in 2015 and 2017.

- Italy have lost their past 22 games in the Six Nations, the longest losing run in the history of the competition, with their most recent win coming at Murrayfield against Scotland five years ago.

- Wales achieved a goal kicking success rate of 83 per cent across all their Test matches in 2019, the best rate of any Tier 1 side, while Italy had the lowest such rate (64 per cent).

- George North will start at centre for Wales and he needs one more try to become the third player to score 20 in the Six Nations, joining Brian O'Driscoll (26) and Shane Williams (22).
 

Ireland v Scotland

- Only once in the past four seasons have Ireland won their opening game of a Six Nations, going on to win the Grand Slam in the year they managed to do so (2018).

- Scotland have just seven wins in 50 away matches in the Six Nations, with five of those coming in Italy.

- Ireland have won five of their past six Six Nations games against Scotland, their sole defeat in that time coming in 2017 at Murrayfield.

Conor Murray has 19 assists to his name for Ireland in the Six Nations, the most of any player from any nation. He is also the joint-top try-scoring scrum-half in the competition, with nine.
 

France v England

- Billy Vunipola made 198 carries in international rugby in 2019, over 50 more than any other player, while was also the top metre-making forward for a Tier 1 side.

- France – who finished fourth last year – have crossed for just six tries in their past six home games against England in the Six Nations.

- Rugby World Cup runners-up England have won 10 of their past 13 Six Nations matches against France, though all three losses in that time came in Paris.

- Jones' side scored 24 tries in the 2019 Six Nations, eight more than any other side and double the amount France managed.

- However, of the 10 Tier 1 nations, only New Zealand managed a higher tackle success rate than France in 2019 across all matches.

George North will play at centre and Johnny McNicholl makes his Wales debut against Italy on Saturday but Josh Navidi will miss the start of the Six Nations due to injury.

North switches to partner Hadleigh Parkes for his fifth start in midfield at international level, with uncapped wing McNicholl coming in for the defending champions' first match of the tournament under head coach Wayne Pivac.

Flanker Navidi looks set to miss the majority of the competition after suffering a hamstring injury.

Fit-again back-row Taulupe Faletau returns for his first international appearance since March 2018, while uncapped centre Nick Tompkins could make his debut off the bench.

Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar made up the half-back pairing at the Principality Stadium, where Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny join McNicholl in the back three.

There is no place in the matchday squad for teen flyer Louis Rees-Zammit.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Nick Tompkins.

Wales full-back Liam Williams will miss the first game of the Six Nations against Italy but uncapped teenager Louis Rees-Zammit is expected to be fit.

Williams has not played since sustaining an ankle injury during the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall expected the Scarlets-bound British and Irish Lion to return against the Azzurri on February 1.

New Wales head coach Wayne Pivac says Williams will not feature at the Principality Stadium, but hopes he will make his comeback in a blockbuster clash against Ireland in Dublin a week later. 

"Liam is on for round two of the competition, he won't make the first game." said Pivac.

Pivac had more positive news of 18-year-old wing Rees-Zammit, who limped out of Gloucester's European Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse last Sunday with an ankle knock but could make his debut when Wales start the defence of their title.

"Louis picked up a bit of a bump last week, he's worked well with the medical team and he'll hopefully be training this morning, doing some running with the boys," Pivac said at the Six Nations launch on Wednesday.

"He'll go back to his club this weekend and then we'll get him back next week."

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones says the 2019 Grand Slam winners will need time to adjust in a new era under Pivac, who replaced the long-serving Warren Gatland after the World Cup.

The lock said: "It is going to be a bumpy road and we cannot shy away from that. There has been a lot of change and, to a point, we have to cut ties with that.

"But if you continue to look over your shoulder, you will slow yourself down. If we are going to evolve, there are a few more things to adapt to, and that is what you want to do.

"I was asked earlier about desire, and why you keep going, and I just remember why I started. I want to play rugby and I want to be involved with Wales.

"It is Wayne's world now and I am looking forward to what is to come."

In-demand Wales wing Steff Evans has ended speculation over his future by signing a new deal with the Scarlets.

The 25-year-old flyer attracted interest from France as he neared the end of his contract.

Evans has decided to remain with his home region ahead of the Six Nations, with no mention from the Scarlets of the length of his new deal.

Capped 13 times by the Six Nations champions, Evans said: "I am loving my rugby here at the moment so it was an easy decision to stay with the Scarlets.

"The coaches have built a great environment that all the players are buying into and there's a real buzz about the place at the moment.

"This is my home region, I grew up watching the Scarlets and to have made more than 100 appearances is an achievement I am hugely proud of.

"The squad here is as strong as it has been since I have been here and I really feel there are exciting times ahead.

"The boys have been playing some great rugby this season, we are still alive in two competitions and I am looking forward to playing my part in what should be an exciting few months to come."

Wales centre Jamie Roberts has left Bath to sign with South African Super Rugby franchise the Stormers.

British and Irish Lion Roberts, who joined Bath from Harlequins in 2018, moves to Cape Town with immediate effect after the Stormers received the financial support of a corporate partner.

The 33-year-old earned the last of his 94 Wales caps in November 2017 and will also act as a mentor for his new team.

"It has long been a goal of mine to play in the Southern Hemisphere and I cannot think of a better place to do so than in the Western Cape, where people are so passionate about their rugby and also staying in Cape Town which is such an amazing city," said Roberts.

"While I am looking forward to wearing the shirt, my key drive is to perform on the pitch, win week in week out and to help to drive success.

"Having toured South Africa with my school, sevens, club and Wales, then playing in the 2009 British and Irish Lions series as a young player which was a highlight in my career, to spend some time down here and contribute to the fantastic rugby culture will be a special privilege.

"Every time I have been to South Africa, it has always struck me as a beautiful country with rugby at its heart, which reminds me very much of home. It feels very special to be able to come and play rugby in South Africa.

"While I am looking forward to pulling the Stormers jersey on, this will also be a fantastic opportunity for me to help impart some knowledge and insight on the many talented youngsters that we have here."

The Stormers finished bottom of the South Africa Conference last season and begin their 2020 campaign at home to the Hurricanes on February 1.

Bath have replaced Roberts by signing Fiji international and utility back Josh Matavesi from Newcastle Falcons.

Teenage wing Louis Rees-Zammit is among five uncapped players in new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac's squad for the Six Nations.

Rees-Zammit has earned rave reviews following his performances for Gloucester and the 18-year-old flyer is set to be unleashed on the international stage.

Prop WillGriff John, second-row Will Rowlands, centre Nick Tompkins and versatile New Zealand-born back Johnny McNicholl will also be hoping to win their first caps for the defending champions.

Lock Seb Davies and wing Jonah Holmes are among the 38 included by Pivac along with fit-again back-row Taulupe Faletau and scrum-half Rhys Webb, who is set to re-join the Ospreys from Toulon.

"We are really excited to be naming our Six Nations squad and kicking the campaign off," said Pivac.

"A lot of time and effort has gone into selecting the squad, all of the coaches have been out and about, seeing players in training, speaking with them and we are pretty excited with the group we have got.

"Looking back to the Barbarians week, that was hugely important for us. We got a lot of 'firsts' out of the way, getting to meet and get in front of the players and having a game together was hugely beneficial.

"We do have a couple of injuries but we flip that into seeing it as an opportunity for some new players to impress, with not only the Six Nations in mind but also longer term and 2023."

 

Wales squad in full:

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Ken Owens, Leon Brown, WillGriff John, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Will Rowlands, Cory Hill, Aaron Shingler, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric.

Backs: Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Owen Williams, Jarrod Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, George North, Josh Adams, Owen Lane, Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jonah Holmes, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.

George North opened the scoring for Ospreys on his return from injury on Saturday, but a dramatic finish saw Dragons come out on top in their Pro14 derby clash.

Wales wing North had been out of action since rupturing his hamstring in the Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa in October.

He was fit to start and play 79 minutes for struggling Ospreys, yet his eventual departure came amid a thrilling stretch in which Dragons claimed a 25-18 victory.

North dotted down after 19 minutes following Scott Williams' kick and, although Leon Brown responded in style, Ospreys were in control again as Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler scored in the second half.

They remained in front until the 74th minute, but Rio Dyer's try brought Dragons back into the match, and Adam Warren went over with two minutes remaining to settle it.

Defeat leaves Ospreys still bottom of Conference A with just one win in 10 matches.

Fellow strugglers Zebre found some form at home to Cheetahs.

Charlie Walker scored a pair of tries in a 41-13 success, just Zebre's second of the campaign.

At the other end of the table, Leinster equalled their best ever start to a season with a 10th straight win, defeating Connacht 54-7.

Max Deegan and Garry Ringrose each scored twice, with the table-topping Irish province crossing eight times in all in another dominant victory.

Elsewhere, George Horne went over twice and brother Pete also got on the scoresheet as Glasgow Warriors ran in six tries to claim a 38-19 bonus-point win at Benetton.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh took full advantage of Pieter Scholtz's early dismissal to rout Southern Kings 61-13.

Scholtz saw red for contact to the neck in the 13th minute, and Edinburgh, who trailed at that point, scored the first of their nine tries a minute later in a handsome victory.

Liam Williams' much-anticipated return from Saracens to the Scarlets has been confirmed by the Pro14 side.

Wales full-back Williams, who is still recovering from an injury sustained during the Rugby World Cup, left the Scarlets to join Saracens in 2017.

The 28-year-old has subsequently helped Sarries to two successive Premiership titles, along with a European Champions Cup triumph last season.

However, Williams – who on Saturday appeared to confirm the move on his official Twitter account – will return to the Pro14 with his former club after his contract at Saracens expires at the end of the season.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saracens over the past three seasons," Williams said.

"The environment has undoubtedly developed me as a player and a person. I am grateful for the support I've had from the players, management and supporters during this time."

Before Williams leaves Saracens, he will be tasked with attempting to help the champions retain their Premiership status.

Saracens are 17 points adrift at the foot of the table, having been fined £5.36million and deducted 35 points for breaching salary cap rules.

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