Olly Cracknell and Ashton Hewitt among new faces targeting Wales debuts

Steff Evans, Olly Cracknell, Thomas Young, Ashton Hewitt
Clockwise from top left: Steffan Evans, Olly Cracknell, Owen Williams, Thomas Young, Ashton Hewitt
Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Date: Sunday, 5 February Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Ospreys flanker Olly Cracknell is targeting a first Wales cap after being included in the Six Nations squad.

Cracknell, 22, is one of seven uncapped players in Rob Howley's 36-man party - and one of five never to have been in the squad before.

With the likes of uncapped Dragons wing Ashton Hewitt also tipped to shine, Cracknell has his sights on Wales' Six Nations opener in Italy on 5 February.

"I want to compete for a place," he said.

"I had an email this morning. A few of the boys in the last couple of week have been saying I might have a chance but I did not believe it.

"It was surreal. I kept looking at the email and couldn't comprehend it.

"But it is just the start. This is just one of my personal goals to get in the squad but that's not the end of it.

"There is no point resting on my laurels and going in there and just making up the numbers."

The seven uncapped players in the Wales squad are Cracknell, Hewitt, Ospreys lock Rory Thornton, Leicester fly-half Owen Williams, Scarlets wing Steffan Evans, Scarlets scrum-half Aled Davies and Wasps flanker Thomas Young.

Only Davies and Thornton have previously been in senior Wales squads.

Olly Cracknell
Olly Cracknell has scored two tries in 13 appearances for Ospreys this season

Cracknell was born in Leeds but has spent the majority of his career in Wales, playing for the likes of Bridgend, Cardiff and RGC 1404 in north Wales as well as the Ospreys.

He also represented Wales at Under-20s level, but it is his sparkling regional form this season which has seen him earn a first senior call-up.

"Personally I have set this marker down as a big achievement to try and get to," he added.

"I am a bit surprised at how quickly I have actually managed to get in the squad but it's just the start for me.

"I have been on quite a long route which has brought me here.

"When I was 18 I remember sitting down and looking at the best sixes in the world and just looking at clips.

"[Wales flanker] Dan Lydiate was a big one and having him here [at the Ospreys] has been a big help."

'Hewitt one of the bravest'

Ashton Hewitt
Dragons wing Ashton Hewitt has played for Wales Under-20s

Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Kingsley Jones believes 22-year-old Hewitt has the attributes to excel at international level.

"First of all what he can bring is pace, and he can beat people, and that's what international rugby is about - you create opportunities and you need people to take them," said Jones.

"But the biggest compliment is that when he came in three years ago, people were highlighting what he couldn't do, and he's worked really hard to improve all aspects of his game.

"His mental toughness and his physical toughness is his biggest asset, one of the bravest you'll come across."

Jones hopes the player and the region will benefit even if he is joining up with the squad below others in the pecking order.

"He'll come back to us a better player, a more confident player, and I think the coaches there will be impressed with his work-rate and how he wants to improve.

"I'm pleased for him and for the region, for the rest of the squad. It shows [there's] some reward for performing for the Dragons."

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