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Howley hails emerging crop

Assistant coach Rob Howley believes the latest crop of youngsters to be included in the Wales squad can be the spark that lights a fire under their RBS 6 Nations challenge.

Head coach Warren Gatland's investment in youth was seen as an integral factor in Wales' memorable march to the semi-finals of the World Cup in New Zealand, with captain Sam Warburton, George North and Toby Faletau among those to emerge from the tournament as global stars.

"It's very encouraging to see these youngsters coming through," Howley told Press Association Sport.

Gatland's 35-man training squad for the Six Nations includes further evidence of the promising talents being churned out by the regional academy system, with Ospreys centre Ashley Beck, 21, deservedly rewarded for his outstanding form, and unheralded Cardiff Blues wing Harry Robinson, 18, being among those getting call-ups.

Wales head to Poland on Sunday for a week-long pre-tournament training camp and Howley hopes the presence of the new faces can provide stern competition for places and help give the squad the edge they showcased in New Zealand.

"I am delighted with Ashley Beck, he has played very well and has benefited from having a regular starting berth at the Ospreys," he said.

"These new faces can put pressure on some of the more established members of the squad.

"For example, Ashley can put pressure on the likes of Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams, who all did so well at the World Cup.

"But we have to remember that we failed at the World Cup, we lost in the semi-final, and we have to reignite that enthusiasm which we had before the World Cup.

"Going to Poland is part of that and bringing in fresh faces makes people realise you are not guaranteed your position. Having that competition will be key to what we want to do in Poland and in the tournament itself."

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