Rugby-Hooker Owens handed Wales captaincy for Six Nations

FILE PHOTO: International - Wales v New Zealand

CARDIFF (Reuters) - Hooker Ken Owens has been named as captain of Wales for the Six Nations as returning head coach Warren Gatland included four uncapped players in his expanded 37-man selection on Tuesday.

Gatland's trust in Owens, 36, is a disappointment for former skippers lock Alun Wyn Jones and flyhalf Dan Biggar, who have both been selected in the squad but not asked to lead the team.

"Ken’s incredibly experienced and a passionate Welshman – it means a lot to him to play for Wales. He’s also very popular with the players," Gatland said in a Welsh Rugby media release.

Wyn Jones, Dewi Lake and Liam Williams return from injuries that saw them miss the autumn internationals, while lock Rhys Davies, centre Keiran Williams, wing Mason Grady and utility forward Teddy Williams are the uncapped players in the squad.

There are also recalls for Leon Brown, Rhys Carre, Rhys Patchell, Aaron Wainwright, Rhys Webb and Owen Williams.

"It’s probably a bigger squad than I’d normally name, but we want to have a good Six Nations and also look forward to the (2023) World Cup," Gatland said.

"We’ve some youngsters that have come in and then we’ve some older very experienced players that we need to manage.

"It’s looking at the whole element for the squad and how we get the balance right, because that’s definitely going to be a challenge over the next 10 months."

Wales open their Six Nations campaign at home to Ireland on Feb. 4.

Gatland is back as head coach following the axing of Wayne Pivac last month. Wales lost nine of their 12 tests in 2022.

He previously coached Wales for a 12-year period up to the 2019 World Cup, winning four Six Nations titles in that time.

Squad:

Forwards (20)

Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby 17 caps)

Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 45 caps)

Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps)

Dewi Lake (Ospreys – 8 caps)

Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps), Captain

Bradley Roberts (Dragons – 3 caps)

Leon Brown (Dragons – 22 caps)

Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)

Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)

Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)

Rhys Davies (Ospreys – uncapped)

Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)

Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)

Teddy Williams (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)

Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)

Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps)

Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)

Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps)

Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs – 3 caps)

Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 36 caps)

Backs (17)

Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 16 caps)

Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)

Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)

Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)

Rhys Patchell (Scarlets – 21 caps)

Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)

Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)

Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)

George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)

Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 25 caps)

Keiran Williams (Ospreys – uncapped)

Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 44 caps)

Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)

Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)

Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 97 caps)

Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 22)

Liam Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 81)

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)