Wales boss Warren Gatland has named three uncapped players in a 35-man squad for next month’s Tests against South Africa, Argentina, Tonga and Australia. Ospreys wing Eli Walker, Cardiff Blues centre Cory Allen and Scarlets scrum-half Rhodri Williams have all been selected.
But there are no places for injured British and Irish Lions backs Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert or Blues captain Matthew Rees. Racing Metro centre Roberts is recovering from an ankle injury, while Blues wing Cuthbert suffered an ankle problem during last weekend’s Heineken Cup victory over European champions Toulon.
The Blues have today announced Rees will be out of the game for an enforced period after undergoing testicular surgery.
Perpignan back James Hook, who last started for Wales against another Test-playing country two years ago, has made the squad, which is based largely on last season’s RBS 6 Nations title-winning group.
There is also a place for scrum-half Mike Phillips, who faced a meeting with Bayonne directors on Tuesday after he allegedly attended a players’ video analysis session at the French club earlier this month while under the influence of alcohol.
Phillips, who has won 77 caps, could find himself facing a club suspension and be hit with a substantial fine. Luke Charteris, Aaron Jarvis and Rhys Priestland return after injury.
Gatland said: “We have an important campaign ahead as we look to test ourselves against some of the best sides in the world but also add strength in depth to our squad as we look to the future,” said Gatland.
“We face a huge game against South Africa first up and they will be coming to us after an impressive Rugby Championship campaign.
“Recent matches between us have been very close and physical and that will be a great test for us to kick-off.
“All four matches will be a stern test but we are looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to seeing what we can do on this stage.
“The Rugby World Cup is less than two years away, so we are looking to build as much depth in our squad as possible and to give vital international experience to our players.”
WALES SQUAD 2013 DOVE MEN SERIES:
Forwards: Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Paul James (Bath), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (CAPT – Cardiff Blues), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro)
Backs: Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Jon Davies (Scarlets), Ashley Beck (Ospreys), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Owen Williams (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), George North (Northampton Saints), Eli Walker (Ospreys), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets).
What do you make of the Wales squad?
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images