Warren Gatland revealed a glowing recommendation from one of world rugby’s outstanding coaches played its part in New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe making an unlikely journey from Super Rugby to potential Wales Test star.
Anscombe, 23, is among four uncapped players in Wales head coach Gatland’s 34-man squad for this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship. Despite making just nine appearances as a Cardiff Blues player, the former Auckland Chiefs fly-half will report for Wales duty next week, joining forces with fellow number 10s Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland.
Anscombe, whose mother was born in Wales, offers Gatland options at fly-half and full-back. And the Wales boss says a conversation he had with Wayne Smith, who worked withAnscombe at the Chiefs provided an invaluable guide.
“I had a good chat to Wayne Smith about him, and Wayne couldn’t speak more highly,” Gatland said. “They were very impressed by him at the Chiefs, both as a player and as a person.”
Anscombe is joined in the squad by fellow Test rookies in Newport Gwent Dragons centre Tyler Morgan, Scarlets prop Rob Evans and Blues hooker Kristian Dacey. There are no places, though, for 95 times-capped Blues prop Adam Jones or Gloucester fly-half James Hook. Jones had been tipped for a recall after Scarlets forward Rhodri Jones suffered a shoulder injury. But Gatland has chosen Samson Lee, Aaron Jarvis and Scott Andrews as his three tighthead props.
Elsewhere in the squad, there is a recall for Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies, who joins fellow number nines Rhys Webb and Mike Phillips, withMorgan featuring among the centres.
WALES: SIX NATIONS SQUAD
Backs: L Halfpenny (Toulon), L Williams (Scarlets), G North (Northampton), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), H Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), T Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Williams (Scarlets), J Davies (Clermont Auvergne), J Roberts (Racing Metro), C Allen (Cardiff Blues), G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), R Priestland (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), G Davies (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys), M Phillips (Racing Metro).
Forwards: G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), P James (Bath), R Evans (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), R Hibbard (Gloucester), S Baldwin (Ospreys), K Dacey (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), J Ball (Scarlets), B Davies (Wasps), L Charteris (Racing Metro), D Lydiate (Ospreys), J King (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
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