Six Nations squads: Gatland overhauls Wales side after NFL shock, Scotland select ex-England prop, Italy star returns


The Welsh squad announcement for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship has been overshadowed by the news that star wing Louis Rees-Zammit is stepping away from the sport to pursue his dream of a career in the NFL. 

The 22-year-old, one of the hottest properties in world rugby, has been released by his club Gloucester and will head to Florida this week to join the NFL International Player Pathway. 

“I have had the incredible honour of playing rugby for my country which, as a proud Welshman, I’ve never taken for granted,” Rees-Zammit, who has earned 32 caps for Wales, said.

“However, I believe that this is the right time for me to realise another professional goal of playing American football in the US. Those opportunities don’t come around very often.”

“Sometimes they get chances to move on,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said. “I’ve always been supportive of that. If that’s been a dream of his, trying to make it in that environment, he’ll always regret it if he doesn’t take it.”

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In his absence Gatland named a 34-strong squad featuring five uncapped players: Cardiff quartet Cameron Winnett, Evan Lloyd, Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin, plus Bath prop Archie Griffin.

Louis Rees-Zammit. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Gatland named lock Dafydd Jenkins, 21, as Wales’ second youngest captain after Gareth Edwards, 20, a bold move after hooker Dewi Lake and back row Jac Morgan shared the duties at the World Cup. Both are currently injured.

He’s (Jenkins) the type of guy who gets on with his job. He’s one of the last out of the gym. He works hard on his preparation and on the laptop looking at the opposition. He’ll lead by example,” Gatland said.

Taulupe Faletau is unlikely to feature in the Six Nations having not played since breaking his arm at the World Cup. He now has a calf problem.

There is a recall for flanker James Botham, grandson of cricket great Sir Ian Botham. 

Wales kick off their campaign against Scotland on February 3.

Wales squad: Backs: G Davies (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff), K Hardy (Scarlets), S Costelow (Scarlets), I Lloyd (Scarlets), C Evans (Dragons), N Tompkins (Saracens), O Watkin (Ospreys), G North (Ospreys), M Grady (Cardiff), J Roberts (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff), R Dyer (Dragons), C Winnett (Cardiff), T Rogers (Scarlets). 
Forwards: G Thomas (Ospreys), C Domachowski (Cardiff), K Mathias (Scarlets), R Elias (Scarlets), E Dee (Dragons), E Lloyd (Cardiff), K Assiratti (Cardiff), A Griffin (Bath), L Brown (Dragons), W Rowlands (Racing 92), A Beard (Ospreys), D Jenkins (Exeter, capt), Teddy Williams (Cardiff), A Wainwright (Dragons), T Reffell (Leicester), A Mann (Cardiff), J Botham (Cardiff), M Martin (Cardiff), T Basham (Dragons).

Ex-England prop named by Scots

Six years after he won six England caps under Eddie Jones prop Alec Hepburn has been called up by Scotland.

The 29-year-old is one of four uncapped players included in a 39-man squad for the upcoming Six Nations.

Hepburn has completed his three-year stand-down period to switch allegiance to the nation of his father’s birth. 

Leicester prop Will Hurd, Sale winger Arron Reed – both 24 – and 22-year-old Edinburgh back Harry Paterson are the other three newcomers in Gregor Townsend’s squad. 

The most notable absentees from the squad are Hamish Watson, Rory Sutherland and Chris Harris – all of whom played for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021. 

Your Scotland squad for the 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations has been confirmed ????????????????????????????


— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) January 16, 2024

Townsend revealed he is still to decide whether Jamie Ritchie will captain Scotland for the upcoming Six Nations as the Edinburgh back-rower bids to prove his form and fitness ahead of the tournament.

The 27-year-old flanker has led the national team since succeeding Stuart Hogg in the role for the 2022 summer tour of South America but has been hindered by injury since the World Cup

Scotland kick off their campaign on February 3 against Wales in Cardiff, where they have not won since 2002.

“Cardiff is a special place to play and we haven’t won there for a number of years,” he said.

“It is a challenge we feel is right for our group after the way the World Cup ended, to show who we are and what we learnt (in France),” Townsend said.

Scotland squad: ForwardsEwan Ashman (Edinburgh), Josh Bayliss (Bath), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), Andy Christie (Saracens), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Scott Cummings (Glasgow), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow), Rory Darge (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), Will Hurd (Leicester Tigers), Johnny Matthews (Glasgow), WP Nel (Edinburgh), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow), Glen Young (Edinburgh).
BacksAdam Hastings (Gloucester), Ben Healy (Edinburgh), George Horne (Glasgow), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Rory Hutchinson (Northampton), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Toulouse) Stafford McDowall (Glasgow), Harry Paterson (Edinburgh), Ali Price (Edinburgh), Cameron Redpath (Bath), Arron Reed (Sale Sharks), Kyle Rowe (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Bath), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Ben White (Toulon).

Italian centre returns from injury

Italy centre Tommaso Menoncello, who missed last year’s Rugby World Cup through injury, has been included in the country’s Six Nations squad by new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

A new era begins for Italian rugby after the Argentine took over from Kieran Crowley, who led Italy in the last two Six Nations championships and the World Cup, and Quesada has named five uncapped players in the 34-man party.

Menoncello became the youngest Six Nations try scorer on his debut against France in 2022, but missed the World Cup after picking up a bicep injury in a warm-up game.

Italy begin their Six Nations campaign in Rome against England on February 3.

Italy squad: Forwards: Pietro Ceccarelli, Danilo Fischetti, Matteo Nocera, Luca Rizzoli, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosue Zilocchi, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Marco Manfredi, Giacomo Nicotera, Niccolo Cannone, Edoardo Iachizzi, Federico Ruzza, Andrea Zambonin, Lorenzo Cannone, Riccardo Favretto, Alessandro Izekor, Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, Ross Vintcent, Manuel Zuliani
Backs: Alessandro Garbisi, Martin Page-Relo, Stephen Varney, Tommaso Allan, Paolo Garbisi, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Federico Mori, Marco Zanon, Pierre Bruno, Ange Capuozzo, Monty Ioane, Simone Gesi, Lorenzo Pani

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