RHYS Webb has joined the fierce battle for the Wales start at scrum-half after being given special dispensation to feature in the Six Nations.

The Lions half-back has not played for his country since the 2017 encounter with South Africa because of his move to Toulon.

The 31-times capped international fell foul of the senior player selection policy, which means those playing outside Wales must have 60 caps to be eligible.

However, earlier this week it was announced that the 31-year-old from Bridgend will be released a season early from his contract with the French giants for family reasons and he will return to the Ospreys.

That meant he would have been available for the summer tour to New Zealand but new boss Wayne Pivac has received a boost for his first campaign at the helm.

Western Telegraph:

It was agreed at a meeting of the Professional Rugby Board to allow Webb to feature in the Six Nations, which starts with a clash against Italy in Cardiff on Saturday, February 1.

He will now battle with Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams and Aled Davies – Warren Gatland's trio of World Cup 9s – for selection.

A Welsh Rugby Union statement said: "The Welsh Rugby Union can confirm Rhys Webb will be eligible for selection for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

"It was announced earlier this week that Top 14 side Toulon had agreed to Webb's early release from his contract for family reasons.

"Following the 31-times capped scrum-half's contractual commitment to return to play his club rugby in Wales with the Ospreys next season, the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) has agreed to an application from the player and his representative to allow a six-month dispensation from the senior player selection policy, during which new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac can consider Webb for selection.

"In accordance with Wales' senior player selection policy, the 31-year-old British and Irish Lion was originally eligible for international selection from 1 July 2020.

"However, the dispensation granted by the PRB enables Webb to compete for a place in Pivac's first campaign in charge of Wales, starting at Principality Stadium against Italy on 1 February."

Cardiff Blues' Williams has been in fine form to put the heat on the Scarlets' Davies, who was Gatland's starter at the World Cup.