Wales call for Coombs
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs has been named in Wales' squad for the Six Nations.
The 28-year-old is one of five uncapped players in their 35-man squad along with Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Ospreys lock James King, and Cardiff Blues backrowers Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius.
Coombs' selection is a story to rival that of Lloyd Burns, the Dragons hooker who went from being a bricklayer playing with Cross Keys to representing Wales in a World Cup.
Like Burns, Coombs earned a professional contract in 2010 after impressing in the Premiership where he captained Newport from number eight.
He made a mark at regional level with a number of abrasive performances in the back row and then shone when injuries forced the Dragons to play him as an emergency lock.
Coombs suffered a knee injury on the opening day of the season and made his return in the Amlin Challenge Cup in December.
He hit the ground running and his fiesty performances in the festive derbies have earned him an international call.
Wales have been particularly badly hit in the second-row department, with Alun-Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies currently unavailable to interim head coach Rob Howley and not named in his initial Six Nations squad.
Fly-half Rhys Priestland and prop Aaron Jarvis, meanwhile, are also injury absentees as Wales build towards the opening game of their Six Nations title defence against Ireland on February 2.
There are recalls for Clermont Auvergne full-back Lee Byrne, who has not featured in a Wales matchday 23 since the 2011 World Cup, and Exeter prop Craig Mitchell.
Star prop Adam Jones also returns after missing the entire autumn Test series this season because of injury and Howley will hope that some of his other injured contingent, including Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate, can play some part in the tournament.
Former Wales captain Ryan Jones is also named in the squad, although his participation against Ireland and then France seven days later is currently doubtful due to a dislocated thumb injury.
Pretorius apart, there are few surprises with the uncapped contingent.
Walker and Australia-born King have both been in outstanding form for the Ospreys, as has Coombs in Dragons colours and former Wales Under-20 captain Navidi for the Blues.
King has English parents, but he was initially brought up in north Wales and played for Mold Rugby Club.
Howley said: "We have put together a very experienced squad and complimented that by rewarding the in-form players with a call-up.
"The players in the squad have been playing really well, and we have been pleased with their individual performances.
"We have a group of players who know how to win big matches and have experienced success. We are adding to that players who have stood out and performed well for the regions this season."
Wales squad for the RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Backs: L Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Liam Williams (Scarlets), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), E Walker (Ospreys), G North (Scarlets), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne), T Knoyle (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues).
Forwards: S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), C Mitchell (Exeter), A Jones (Ospreys) P James (Bath), G Jenkins (Toulon), R Bevington (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), M Rees (Scarlets), R Jones (Ospreys) L Reed (Blues), I Evans (Ospreys), J King (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Turnbull (Scarlets), J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt) T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Pretorius (Cardiff Blues).