Rob Howley has named Ospreys star Sam Davies in his Wales squad but there are a number of surprising ommisions.
Follow all the latest reaction and live updates from Howley's press conference below.
WALES 2016 UNDER ARMOUR SERIES SQUAD
Prop Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues) (12 Caps) Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (14 Caps) Rhys Gill (Cardiff Blues) (6 Caps) Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues) (126 Caps) Samson Lee (Scarlets) (28 Caps) Nicky Smith (Ospreys) (3 Caps)
Hooker Scott Baldwin (Ospreys) (24 Caps) Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues) (3 Caps) Ken Owens (Scarlets) (42 Caps)
Second Row Jake Ball (Scarlets) (20 Caps) Luke Charteris (Bath Rugby) (68 Caps) Bradley Davies (Ospreys) (56 Caps) Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (102 Caps) Rory Thornton (Ospreys) (UNCAPPED)
Back Row Dan Baker (Ospreys) (3 Caps) Taulupe Faletau* (Bath Rugby) (61 Caps) James King (Ospreys) (8 Caps) Dan Lydiate (Ospreys) (57 Caps) Ross Moriarty (Gloucester) (9 Caps) Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (43 Caps) Sam Warburton (CAPT) (Cardiff Blues) (67 Caps)
Scrum Half Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (17 Caps) Rhys Webb (Ospreys) (22 Caps) Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues) (27 Caps)
Fly Half Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) (8 Caps) Dan Biggar (Ospreys) (48 Caps) Sam Davies (Ospreys) (UNCAPPED)
Centre Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (56 Caps) Tyler Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons) (3 Caps) Jamie Roberts* (Harlequins) (83 Caps) Scott Williams (Scarlets) (38 Caps)
Wing/Full Back Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons) (10 Caps) Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues) (42 Caps) Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon) (62 Caps) George North* (Northampton Saints) (62 Caps) Liam Williams (Scarlets) (35 Caps) * Denotes Senior Player Selection Policy wildcard selection.
Warren Gatland has been confirmed as head coach of the 2017 British & Irish Lions that will tour New Zealand next summer.
The announcement was made in Edinburgh on Wednesday 7th September, with Gatland taking up the post with immediate effect.
The 52-year-old oversaw the Lions’ successful tour of Australia in 2013, prior to which he took charge of two of Wales’s autumn Tests. This time, however, Gatland will fully focus on the Lions as they attempt win a first series against in New Zealand since 1971.
Warren Gatland and Lions players will need smart thinking and physicality to tackle the All Blacks.
The Wales assistant coach Rob Howley will take charge of the national team in Gatland’s absence, just like he did four years ago.
“Coaching the Lions is a great privilege,” said Gatland. “The 2013 tour was a real career highlight for me and I’m honoured to be offered the role again.”
The tour will include 10 games, with early provincial opponents allowed to field their leading All Blacks. On recent tours, host unions have kept their main players fresh for the main Tests, but the New Zealand selector Grant Fox has indicated that teams such as the Blues, Crusaders and Highlanders will be “loaded up” with contenders for Test spots.
Gatland will be at the helm for the toughest assignment in the game with a three-Test series against the All Blacks the culmination of tour that includes five games against Super Rugby opposition and a match against the Maori.
The Lions have prevailed only once in 11 previous visits to New Zealand – John Dawes’s 1971 tourists triumphed 2-1 – and were demolished in their last meeting with the All Blacks in 2005.
Gatland, who was also part of Sir Ian McGeechan’s coaching team in South Africa seven years ago, is convinced the tourists can prevail against the odds.
“I know from having been in New Zealand recently how much excitement there is ahead of next year,” Gatland said. “For the All Blacks a Lions series is the ultimate test, but I’m 100% confident that we can go and win in New Zealand.”
Gatland will finalise the make-up of his own coaching team before the end of the year. “The chance to work with the best players from the four home nations is a coach’s dream and we have some outstanding talent to select from,” he said.
“Likewise, there are some outstanding coaches who could potentially be involved and we’ll look to announce them in December. I’m looking forward to seeing how they and the players get on domestically, in Europe and internationally.”
Gatland, who has won two Grand Slams with Wales, departs for New Zealand on Thursday to begin planning for the campaign and will be accompanied by the tour manager, John Spencer.
“We are delighted to have Warren as head coach for a second tour,” Spencer said. “His international track record speaks for itself and he also understands the essence of the Lions and how to unite four nations in one purpose.
“Warren is acutely aware of the challenges we will face in New Zealand and we’re confident he’s the right man to lead us to a series victory.”
Speaking about Howley’s appointment as Wales head coach in Gatland’s absence, Wales Rugby Union chief executive, Martyn Phillips, said: “We are delighted to appoint Rob as Head Coach of Wales for the period that Warren is away. Rob is a very experienced international coach and forms part of one of the most experienced coaching teams in the international game. Added to this, we have a very experienced squad of players, with a strong leadership group and we believe that combination gives us a strong basis on which to perform for the season ahead.
“We considered a range of options domestically and overseas when contingency planning for this eventuality and determined that Rob represents the optimum appointment for Wales. Rob’s experience and relationship with the regional coaches affords the opportunity for a joined up approach, which will be of an important benefit for the game in Wales.”
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