CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Determined to make a fast start in the defense of its Six Nations title, Wales selected a 32-man squad crammed with experience for its opening match against Italy.
The Welsh won their second straight title in 2013, but only after losing 30-22 at home to Ireland in the first round. That experience looks to have swayed coach Warren Gatland's thinking, with the New Zealander going with the tried and tested and deciding against picking any new faces.
"We were a little bit slow starting last year and we know we need to start well on Feb. 1," Gatland said on Tuesday. "We've picked a pretty experienced squad and kept it fairly tight at this stage." Center Jonathan Davies was included, even though he will miss the first three rounds with a chest injury sustained during the November test series. Sam Warburton also hasn't played since the autumn internationals because of a shoulder injury but is named as captain.
Gethin Jenkins is one of the props, although there are concerns over the state of his knee after he was injured in Cardiff's loss to Toulon in the Heineken Cup at the weekend. The Welsh are aiming to become the first team to win three straight Six Nations.
"We have got an opportunity to create history and that is something we will focus on and something that will give us extra motivation," said Gatland, who handed over the reins to assistant Rob Howley for the 2013 tournament while he concentrated on his role as British Lions coach.
"We have got the three games at home and two tough away games but when we won the Grand Slam in 2008 and 2012 we had these fixtures so we know it can be done." Wales' away games are against Ireland and England.
Wales: Forwards: Paul James, Gethin Jenkins, Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Ken Owens, Emyr Phillips, Adam Jones, Samson Lee, Rhodri Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris, Ian Evans, Andrew Coombs, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (captain), Toby Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Aaron Shingler. Backs: Rhodri Williams, Mike Phillips, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland, James Hook, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Scott Williams, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.