Rugby Union: 35-man squad named for Wales’ autumn internationals
Rob Howley has named a 35-man Wales squad to contest the 2012 Dove Men Series at the Millennium Stadium this autumn which includes just one uncapped player and the returning Jamie Roberts.
Howley, Wales’ interim head coach in the absence of Warren Gatland, has selected six players who did not figure in his original 34-man summer tour squad to Australia, including talismanic Blues centre Roberts, with Ospreys tight-head prop Aaron Jarvis the only potential debutant.
Jarvis is one of six props named – only five travelled down under in the summer, which accounts for the larger contingent this time – with fellow Osprey Ryan Bevington and Blues front row Scott Andrews recalled to join incumbents Adam Jones (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Toulon) and Paul James (Bath).
Scarlets pair Rob McCusker (flanker) and Tavis Knoyle (scrum half) both also return to the fold alongside Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar, whilst Blues flanker Sam Warburton is retained as captain.
Knoyle returns in place of Ospreys scrum half Rhys Webb and Biggar alongside Roberts completes the 15-man backs contingent with Aled Brew (Biarritz Olympique) and Andrew Bishop (Ospreys) the players missing out.
Scarlets prop Rhodri Jones (shoulder), Exeter Chiefs prop Craig Mitchell (bicep) and Dragons back row Dan Lydiate (ankle) were unavailable due to injury.
Wales begin their campaign against Argentina on Saturday, 10 November, before facing Samoa the following Friday evening.
The arrival of New Zealand in Cardiff ahead of their clash with Wales on Saturday, 24 November will coincide with Gatland’s return to the national squad coaching staff.
He re-joins the squad for the clash with the All Blacks and to see them face the Wallabies in the series climax on 1 December, before returning to British & Irish Lions duties and leaving Howley in full charge once again for the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship.
“We are really pleased with the strength and depth of the squad with some pleasing individual performances over the last three or four weeks, but we all understand and realize the skill, physicality and intensity will go up over the next five weeks,” said Howley.
“This is one of the reasons we are going back to our training camp in Poland to sharpen minds and bodies.
“Argentina are first up and after the experience they have gained in the Rugby Championship they will be a challenging and tough opponent, but this is a challenge we will look forward too.
“We know how important momentum is going into any series and the bigger picture is the Rugby World Cup draw at the beginning of December and how we perform against the Pumas, Samoa, the All Blacks and the Wallabies will have a direct effect on our seeding in that draw.
“We need a successful November to back up our performances at the RWC in New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year and we are determined to achieve it.”
The Wales squad will begin their preparations for the Dove Men Series with a week’s training camp in Spala, Poland, beginning this Sunday, 28 October – the same Olympic training village which they visited prior to the 2011 RWC.