Williams dropped from Welsh squad


CARDIFF, January 24 – Welsh flanker Martyn Williams, who has won 98 caps and featured on three British and Irish Lions tours, faced the end of his international career on Sunday after being axed for the Six Nations.

The 35-year-old made his debut in 1996 and was just two matches shy of becoming only the second Welsh player, after former skipper Gareth Thomas, to reach the magical 100-cap mark.

But with coach Warren Gatland keen to give youth a chance, and with one eye on the World Cup later this year, Williams was a shock absentee from the 28-man squad which kicks-off the Six Nations on February 4 at the Millennium Stadium.

Williams’ Cardiff Blues teammate Sam Warburton and 20-year-old Scarlets forward Josh Turnbull are Gatland’s preferred openside options.

Turnbull is one of five uncapped players in the squad along with Scarlets back Rhys Priestland, front-row forwards Ryan Bevington and Scott Andrews, plus back-rower Toby Faletau.

Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees has retained the captaincy.

Wales Six Nations squad:

Backs: Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Sale/ENG), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys), Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Lee Byrne (Ospreys)

Forwards: Paul James (Ospreys), John Yapp (Cardiff Blues), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Wasps), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Dan Lydiate (Dragons)