Wales coach Warren Gatland has named 36 of his 2019 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam-winning group in a 42-man training squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The World Cup will be Gatland’s final tournament in charge of Wales – before handing the reigns to current Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac – and Gatland will depart as the only coach in history to win three Championship Grand Slams.
Before that he will be looking to improve on a semi-final showing at the 2011 World Cup and a quarter-final four years later by retaining faith in many of the men who helped the country achieve a memorable Grand Slam at the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
The same 18 backs that made up the 2019 Champions squad are joined by uncapped Cardiff Blues winger Owen Lane, while Blues prop Rhys Carre is the only uncapped forward.
Taulupe Faletau returns to the squad after injury, with fellow back-rower James Davies also included, but there is no place for injured players such as Ellis Jenkins and Thomas Young – although they could be considered at a later date.
2019 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship Alun Wyn Jones is also in the squad and Gatland is ready for a fascinating summer ahead.
“It is exciting to name our training squad and to get the RWC ball rolling,” said Gatland. “We’ve named a 42-man squad, packed with experience, a good number of the Grand Slam-winning squad are in there plus some players who have returned from injury.
“The last couple of years have been about building depth and exposing players and we have done that well so we have kept the numbers down to make the squad as manageable as possible.
“We have created some great competition in the squad and there are a couple of players on the injury list at the moment that we could add into the squad at a later date depending on their recovery.
“We have been really impressed with Rhys (Carre) and with Owen (Lane). They have both been on our succession plan for a while and it will be good to have them in camp with us and to see what they are able to do.
“We are looking forward to the squad meeting up and a hard summer of work ahead of us. We have planned it meticulously and the plans have been in place for a good while now. Looking back to 2011 and 2015 we were happy with our preparation so we are hoping to take that into this year and hopefully build on it.”
After a four-week break following the end of their domestic-season duties, the Wales squad will report to the National Centre of Excellence to begin preparations.
They will then head to Fiesch, in the Swiss Alps, for a fortnight-long overseas training camp before returning to Cardiff for further preparation ahead of their first fixture of the summer against Guinness Six Nations rivals England at Twickenham on August 11.
They will then face England at Principality Stadium six days later before heading to Turkey for a warm-weather training camp.
Another double header against Ireland on August 31 and September 7 follows, with the naming of their 31-man Rugby World Cup squad coming between the two games against Joe Schimdt’s men.
Wales’ 2019 Rugby World Cup training squad:
Forwards: Leon Brown (Dragons), Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Ospreys), Cory Hill (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), James Davies (Scarlets), Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)
Backs: Aled Davies (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints), Jarrod Evans (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Scott Williams (Ospreys), Josh Adams (Worcester Warriors), Hallam Amos (Dragons), Steff Evans (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets), Owen Lane (Cardiff Blues), George North (Ospreys), Jonah Holmes (Leicester Tigers), Liam Williams (Saracens)