WRU Audio: Rob Howley discusses squad selection
Gatland has made no secret of his admiration for the Ospreys' - and the Blues' - campaigns in Europe during his short time in charge of the national side and he says he has rewarded what he believes to be the form players in Wales.
"We want to stress that this is very much a 22-man selection, we have an extremely strong bench to call upon with three former British Lions in there if we need them," said Gatland. "We haven't gone out to pick as many Ospreys as possible by design, the fact that there are 13 of them is probably more of a coincidence than anything else, but saying that you can't escape the fact that they've been one of the form sides in Europe so far this season."
The almost-all Ospreys back line sees Scarlet Jones selected on the left wing with Shane Williams switched to the right. The half-back pairing of Mike Phillips and James Hook will feed a centre partnership of Gavin Henson and Sonny Parker, with Lee Byrne selected as the last line of defence at full-back.
"Dwayne Peel was ruled out of selection for this week due to an injury he picked up in training to his right ankle, but we hope to have him back in contention for next week," added Gatland. "Dwayne's injury gives Mike a chance to perform and James completes that partnership with Stephen Jones, having not played much rugby recently, taking up a place on the bench.
"We have been impressed with Lee Byrne in defence for the Ospreys and his confidence under the high ball in training and positional play has given him the nod at full back."
Up front the regional front row of Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett and Adam Jones provide the scrummaging power Gatland says will be all important against England. In the second row Ian Gough partners Alun-Wyn Jones and captain Ryan Jones joins Jonathan Thomas alongside Williams in the back row. The side retains seven of that which beat England 27-18 at the Millennium Stadium last March.
"We are going to Twickenham on a giant-killing mission, they are the big boys with the extensive resources and huge strength in depth, but we still give ourselves every chance," added Gatland. "We are like a First Division club going to Manchester United in a cup tie and any suggestion that we are anything but underdogs in this game is ridiculous, but we do have the self belief to think that we are in with a chance against our bigger brother from over the border.
"They have an established coaching team, an established structure to their game all the resources at their disposal to produce a top four rugby team. We have had a short time together so far and have had to implement things quickly, by the end of the RBS Six Nations we will probably be ready, but we are going to give it our best shot."
Wales Team to face England
15. Lee Byrne
14. Shane Williams
13. Sonny Parker
12. Gavin Henson
11. Mark Jones
10. James Hook
09. Mike Phillips
01. Duncan Jones
02. Huw Bennett
03. Adam Jones
04. Ian Gough
05. Alun-Wyn Jones
06. Jonathan Thomas
07. Martyn Williams
08. Ryan Jones (Captain)
16. Matthew Ree
17. Gethin Jenkins
18. Ian Evans
19. Alix Popham
20. Gareth Cooper
21. Stephen Jones
22. Tom Shanklin
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England v Wales - This Saturday (2nd February 2008), 4.30pm, Twickenham (Live on BBC One)
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