Rees-Zammit, Tompkins named in Wales squad for Six Nations championship

(Reuters) - Wales’ 18-year-old winger Louis Rees-Zammit earned his maiden callup to the national team as coach Wayne Pivac named a 38-man squad on Wednesday to defend their Six Nations Grand Slam title.

Rugby Union - Wales v Barbarians - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - November 30, 2019 Wales head coach Wayne Pivac before the match REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

Rees-Zammit, who pledged his loyalty to Wales amid interest from England coach Eddie Jones, has impressed with Premiership side Gloucester, who rewarded him with a new long-term contract earlier this week.

WillGriff John and uncapped Saracens centre Nick Tompkins were also called up while three loosehead props -- Rhys Carre, Rob Evans and Wyn Jones -- made the cut.

Hookers Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias and Ken Owens were also named while 34-year-old lock Alun Wyn Jones will captain the side as he looks to equal All Blacks’ great Richie McCaw’s record for most test caps (148).

Five uncapped players made the cut, including Scarlets’ Johnny McNicholl, who played in November’s uncapped match against the Barbarians.

"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," Pivac said in a statement here.

“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 (World Cup).”

Scrumhalf Rhys Webb (31 caps) was recalled to the squad after the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) confirmed he was eligible for selection after agreeing to join Pro14 team Ospreys from French side Toulon.

The 31-year-old was initially unavailable for Wales because of the WRU rule that players based outside the country with fewer than 60 caps are ineligible for selection.

Wales begin their campaign on Feb. 1 when they host Italy in Cardiff.

Forwards (21): Rhys Carre (Saracens), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Leon Brown (Dragons), WillGriff John (Sale), Dillon Lewis (Blues), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Seb Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (Captain), Will Rowlands (Wasps), Cory Hill (Dragons), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Josh Navidi (Blues), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys).

Backs (17): Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Webb (Toulon), Tomos Williams (Blues), Dan Biggar (Northampton), Owen Williams (Gloucester), Jarrod Evans (Blues), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), George North (Ospreys), Josh Adams (Blues), Owen Lane (Blues), Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Jonah Holmes (Leicester Tigers), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Saracens).

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge