Ken Owens to captain Wales as Warren Gatland makes Six Nations squad announcement

Thirty-six year-old Ken Owens has never captained Wales before. Credit: PA

Ken Owens has been named as Wales' new captain after Warren Gatland announced his squad for the Six Nations.

The Scarlets hooker will take over from Justin Tipuric, who led Wales through their unsuccessful autumn series. Dan Biggar, who captained the side earlier in the year, missed that campaign with injury.

In his first squad announcement since returning as head coach, Gatland included four uncapped players in his thirty-seven man list.

Warren Gatland announced his first squad since returning to the job in December Credit: PA

Owens has made 86 appearances to date and will lead his country for the first time after Gatland praised his "outstanding rugby intellect."

Cardiff duo Teddy Williams and Mason Grady, and Ospreys pair Rhys Davies and Keiran Williams have been selected for the first time.

Experienced duo Liam Williams and Biggar return to the squad after missing out on the autumn series due to injury. Veteran, Alun Wyn Jones has also been included, sixteen years after his first call-up.

Experienced duo Liam Williams and Dan Biggar return to the squad after missing out on the autumn series due to injury. Credit: PA

Today's squad is an interesting one for a number of reasons.

Warren Gatland doesn't have a lot of time to get to grips with the players he has at his disposal with the World Cup quickly appearing on the horizon.

Usually, he wouldn't want to use the Six Nations as a development tool but we might have to see an element of that this year.

Wales' Forwards Credit: ITV Cymru Wales / PA

On the whole, though, it seems Gatland is preparing to build his squad around the more senior players in the squad, with such little time to develop another generation.

The uncapped players are all ones who have been in strong form at regional level, with all possessing the physical attributes to take to Test rugby quickly.

The change of captain is noteworthy too. Gatland told ITV Wales that he wanted some continuity in the captaincy role 'over the next number of months', which could run until the World Cup.

Wales' Backs Credit: ITV Cymru Wales / PA

He believes Ken Owens is assured of his position in the side and the implication is that Dan Biggar isn't.

That could light a fire under the senior fly-half and it might turn out to be a masterful bit of man management from the head coach.

The starting XV for the opening game against Ireland will largely pick itself. It will be interesting to see how they come out of the gates, with Gatland back at the helm.

Wales will kick off this year's Six Nations campaign against pre-tournament favourites Ireland on February 4 at a sold-out Principality Stadium.

Welsh fans will be hoping the return of Gatland inspires a change of fortune and results as they look to improve on last year's fifth-place finish.

Wales Squad

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Ken Owens (Captain), Bradley Roberts, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Rhys Davies, Dafydd Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Teddy Williams, Taulupe Faletau, Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, Justin Tipuric, Christ Tshiunza, Aaron Wainwright

Backs: Kieran Hardy, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Owen Williams, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, George North, Nick Tompkins, Keiran Williams, Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Rio Dyer, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams