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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 14:09 GMT
Williams makes shock Wales return
Martyn Williams has been persuaded out of international retirement
Williams has been persuaded out of international retirement
Martyn Williams has made a shock return to the Wales squad after being persuaded to come out of international retirement by new coach Warren Gatland.

The Cardiff Blues flanker, 32, retired after the World Cup, but has been named in a 28-man party for the Six Nations.

Ospreys number eight Ryan Jones will take the captain's armband when Wales start their campaign on 2 February.

The only uncapped player is Blues full-back or wing Jamie Roberts, who could make his debut against England.

While 76-cap Williams has been persuaded back into the international fold, there is no place for veteran Newport Gwent Dragons back-row Colin Charvis, nor his regional colleagues Michael Owen and Ceri Sweeney.

Former captain Gareth Thomas and Llanelli Scarlets full-back Morgan Stoddart are two more who miss out on selection.

Robin Sowden-Taylor is seen as Williams' eventual replacement on the open-side flank and is included in the squad.

606: DEBATE
Sean D

But the 25-year-old cannot currently command a regular place at regional level as he plays for the same Blues side as Williams.

Former Wales assistant coach Lynn Howells, who coached Williams in his formative years at Pontypridd, said the flanker's return to Test rugby is a huge boost for Wales.

"It's important for the Wales team to have players like Martyn, he fetches the experience not only as a player but as a leader," Howells told BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales programme.

"He will have a huge influence and the lieks of Robin Sowden-Taylor has had a chance to learn from him at club level but he can now learn from him at internationl level, which is a totally different ball game.

"Martyn in that group of fowards is vital and Warren Gatland has done the right thing fetching him back in."

Gatland believes that open-side flanker is one of the positions that Wales lack strength in depth and Williams' u-turn is a huge boost to the national side.

"We have had to mix the short-term and the long-term view and Martyn in particular is covering a specialist position," Gatland said.

"I talked to him this weekend and told him we wanted to select him and he took a couple of days to think it over.

"We have some good youngsters coming through, but the likes of Robin Sowden-Taylor are only going to benefit from having Martyn around at the moment.

"We feel he still has a lot to offer and we are delighted he has accepted the invitation to play for his country again."

Gloucester number eight Gareth Delve is also named in the squad and is hoping to make a fresh start to his Wales career.

Delve, 25, has won just four Wales caps due to a series of serious injuries.

"It's been six years since I was first involved in a squad and the injuries I've gone through have obviously held things up a bit!" Delve told BBC Radio Wales' The Back Page programme..

"The incentive was always to get back and win more caps, and hopefully go on to greater honours with Wales.

"I've only managed to achieve that four times, so I feel that I've still got a lot to fulfil in my Wales career."

Gatland has picked a scaled-down squad for the tournament, which begins against England at Twickenham on 2 February.

Cardiff Blues rookie Roberts, 21, had been hotly tipped for a call-up and the 6ft 4in full-back or wing could even be in line to win his first cap when Wales meet England.

Ryan Jones' ability is unquestionable on the pitch and he has the necessary experience to be captain

Wales coach Warren Gatland

Gavin Henson is also a strong contender after returning from a hand injury with a brave and controlled showing for the Ospreys against Gloucester.

Gatland dropped a hint that Dwayne Peel is under major pressure from Mike Phillips to keep hold of the scrum-half jersey.

The New Zealander explained Peel was overlooked for the captaincy because of the competition for places, as was his Scarlets half-back partner Stephen Jones.

"We have gone for Ryan Jones as captain and he is back, fit again and playing well," Gatland added.

"His ability is unquestionable on the pitch and he has the necessary experience to fill the captaincy role.

"I don't mind admitting we looked at a number of players for the role.

"Jonathan Thomas in particular is someone who stands out as a key leader and a possible captain for the future, as does his Ospreys colleague Alun Wyn Jones.

"The likes of Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel will also be important leaders for us, but the competition for places in their positions probably ruled them out of that particular race at this time."

Peel has been included in the squad but is an injury doubt after missing the Scarlets' Heineken Cup defeat to Wasps on Sunday with a shoulder injury.

Gloucester number nine Gareth Cooper is included as the third scrum-half in the squad, despite a poor game for his club in their Heineken Cup defeat to the Ospreys at the weekend.


Wales squad:

Backs: Lee Byrne (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Tom James (Cardiff Blues), Mark Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), Sonny Parker (Ospreys), Gavin Henson (Ospreys), James Hook (Ospreys), Stephen Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), Dwayne Peel (Llanelli Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Gareth Cooper (Gloucester).

Forwards: Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Rhys Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Ian Gough (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues), Robin Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff Blues), Gareth Delve (Gloucester), Alix Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, capt).



SEE ALSO
Young tips Roberts for Wales cap
09 Jan 08 |  Cardiff Blues
Delve rues Cherries indiscipline
13 Jan 08 |  Gloucester
Injured Delve moves to Gloucester
30 Mar 07 |  Gloucester
The tests facing Gatland
09 Nov 07 |  Welsh


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