10 Scarlets in Wales side facing Scotland in 6 Nations
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — The Worcester Warriors are second to last in the English Premiership and the Wales selectors couldn't keep their eye off them.
Because of Josh Adams.
The big wing leads the try-scorer list in the Premiership with nine, and was named the player of December for scoring four in three matches.
The regular starts and regular scoring earned Adams a debut for Wales against Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday in the Six Nations opening round.
"We have been watching Josh closely," Wales coach Warren Gatland said on Tuesday. "We've been impressed with him."
Adams got his break because George North and Hallam Amos were underdone. North, coming back from a left knee injury, has been released back to his Northampton club to get some match action on Friday.
The rest of the Wales backline all came from Scarlets, although the club could count Adams, too. He went through the Scarlets academy before leaving for Worcester in 2015.
Cohesion was a tipping factor in picking Rhys Patchell as the starting flyhalf ahead of the more pragmatic Gareth Anscombe, who was in the reserves. Patchell, capped five times, will continue his club combination with scrumhalf Gareth Davies.
With eight British Lions out - North, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb, Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams, Dan Lydiate - the Welsh selectors went with known combinations in an effort to compensate for lack of experience. Gatland hopes North and Williams will be available to play England next week.
Scarlets have reached the European Champions Cup quarterfinals - the first Welsh club in six years - and Gatland has predictably leaned on them to pick 10 starters and two more in the reserves.
"It's great that the Scarlets have made the quarterfinals of Europe, we've got players coming in with confidence and self-belief," Gatland said. "Familiarity is important, it fast-tracks us in terms of preparation."
Making a timely return at No. 8 was Ross Moriarty, who suffered nerve damage in his back in the first match of the Lions tour in New Zealand and didn't play again until this month. Plus, openside flanker Josh Navidi and blindside Aaron Shingler, who started together three times in the autumn tests, were kept, leaving Lions flanker Justin Tipuric in the reserves.
"The No. 7 jersey was a big debate," Gatland said. "Navidi was outstanding in the autumn and he deserves to retain that jersey. Having Tipuric on the bench, we know the quality he brings."
Another tough call was Patchell or the more experienced Anscombe. Again, the Scarlets factor was decisive.
"We looked at a lot of combinations, especially the front row," Gatland said. "It is exciting to see Samson (Lee) back playing well and the familiarity of the Scarlets front row will be important."
Wales, trying to win its first championship since 2013, hasn't lost to Scotland in Cardiff in 16 years.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Josh Adams, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Cory Hill, Samson Lee, Ken Owens, Rob Evans. Reserves: Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin.