Gatland names experienced Wales squad for Autumn Tests
Captain Sam Warburton and points machine Leigh Halfpenny return as Lions duo Adam Jones and James Hook are left out
Warren Gatland has named an experienced 34-man Wales squad for next month’s Dove Men Series that features just one uncapped player in Ospreys prop Nicky Smith.
The Wales head coach has named 12 senior players who were injured for the summer tour to South Africa, including captain Sam Warburton, Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny and Gloucester hooker Richard Hibbard.
But Cardiff Blues tighthead prop Adam Jones and Gloucester outside-half James Hook, who have more than 170 caps combined, have been left out of Gatland’s squad to face Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa.
“We are really happy with the squad,” Gatland said. “There is a lot of experience that has come back in – 12 players who were injured in the summer and didn’t tour South Africa. They are back and fit and we have a couple of exciting youngsters as well.
“Nicky Smith has been playing exceptionally well for the Ospreys and we have been impressed with him and it’s a great opportunity.
“When you look through the squad there is a huge amount of experience.”
After seven wins in their opening seven matches this season, the Ospreys have nine players named in the squad, including Smith – the former U20 loosehead, as well as Europe’s form half-back pairing of Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb.
There is also a place for Dan Baker, the Number 8, who was stretchered off in the Ospreys’ European Rugby Champions Cup win against Treviso on Sunday, but will be fit to push Taulupe Faleatau for a starting berth.
Joining Smith as front row options are experienced loosehead operators Gethin Jenkins and Paul James, with Scarlets duo Samson Lee and Rhodri Jones doing battle with the Ospreys’ Aaron Jarvis for the tighthead berth. Scarlets hooker Emyr Phillips and the Ospreys’ Scott Baldwin, who has enjoyed an impressive start to the season, are set to challenge Hibbard.
Ospreys captain Alun Wyn Jones is joined by a trio of familiar faces to battle it out in the engine room with Wasps lock Bradley Davies, Racing Metro’s Luke Charteris and Scarlets’ Jake Ball receiving call-ups.
In the back row, Warburton, Faletau and Baker are joined by Ospreys duo Justin Tipuric and James King and Racing Metro’s Dan Lydiate, who has rarely featured for the French club this season and is set to return to a Welsh region in the coming weeks.
Webb, the form Welsh scrum-half, faces competition from the experienced Mike Phillips and Scarlets’ Rhodri Williams, while Biggar’s understudy at outside-half is Scarlets man Rhys Priestland, with Gatland opting not to select a third option at 10.
Elsewhere in the backs, British and Irish Lions quartet Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Alex Cuthbert and George North join Halfpenny and face competition for their places from in-form Scarlets duo Scott and Liam Williams, with Cardiff Blues centre Cory Allen and Newport Gwent Dragons full-back/wings Hallam Amos and Tom Prydie expected to provide further cover across the back three.
“We’ve taken a lot of things into account and made some tough decisions,” Gatland added.
“We’ve had to weigh up a balance of players who play in Wales and outside, due to how often they can train and are with us, but we are really happy with the squad.
“We are looking to the future and the next 12 months ahead with this squad, but it doesn’t close the door for anyone not selected.”
Wales squad for Dove Men Series (34):
Forwards: Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester Rugby), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), James King (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Dan Baker (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Backs: Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), James Roberts (Racing Metro), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Tom Prydie (Newport Gwent Dragons), Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), Liam Williams (Scarlets).
Opposition (all matches at Millennium Stadium):
Saturday 8 November vs Australia, 14:30 kick-off
Saturday 15 November vs Fiji, 14:30 kick-off
Saturday 22 November vs New Zealand, 17:30 kick-off
Saturday 29 November vs South Africa, 14:30 kick-off