Warren Gatland: Door not closed on Adam Jones and James Hook
Wales head coach reveals his reasons for not selecting two of his more experienced internationals for next month's Tests
Warren Gatland insists experienced duo Adam Jones and James Hook could still have a future with Wales despite being left out of the Dove Men Series squad.
The former Ospreys pair, who have over 170 caps between them and have also represented the British and Irish Lions, were the notable absentees as Gatland confirmed his 34-man squad this morning to face Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa next month.
I know England have a hard-and-fast rule and are not picking anyone outside England. We are still picking some but, ultimately, the goal for the future is to have as few players as possible playing outside Wales
“We know what Adam Jones is capable of bringing to us,” Gatland said. “I am sure if there is an injury or we need to look at bringing someone like Adam’s experience back, then we are able to do that.
“With Adam, it’s important he continues to keep working on his game. He looks in reasonable shape physically, but there are other aspects of his game we need him to keep working on.
“It’s also a chance for us to look at some youngsters.”
Uncertainty over a new financial agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales briefly left Jones, 33, out of contract and in limbo over the summer before the veteran prop made a shock move from the Ospreys to Cardiff Blues.
Despite being a regular in the Blues side in the opening weeks of the season, he has failed to impress as much as many would have expected and Gatland, a former Waikato hooker, admitted that front-row players are now required to do more than just scrummage.
“We just feel the game never stays still,” he added. “It continues to move on, and I think with the scrummaging rule changes, that put a lot of pressure on tightheads.
“It probably dropped the value of tightheads by half overnight, and what has become paramount in the game is the ability of front-rows to be more mobile and get around the park. We’ve had that conversation with Adam, and it is something he is working on.”
Now playing his rugby at Gloucester, Hook’s almost certain unavailability for the final match against South Africa – which falls outside of the International Rugby Board’s Test window, as well as potentially some training camps – prompted Gatland to omit the 28-year-old from the squad, and select just Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland as his two outside-half options.
“We decided we were only going to pick two 10s, and there is always that balance between players who are playing in Wales and those who are playing outside of Wales and not having them fully in camp,” Gatland said.
“If they are not in the 23 they have to be released back to English clubs, and they are not available for that fourth international. So it’s that message – that there’s always a risk if you are playing outside of Wales.
“I know England have a hard-and-fast rule and are not picking anyone outside England. We are still picking some but, ultimately, the goal for the future is to have as few players as possible playing outside Wales.
“If you are playing outside Wales there is potentially a risk that it’s going to make it sometimes difficult for you to get selected. The door isn’t closed on James.”
Away from Gatland’s press conference, the WRU confirmed that former Cardiff, Wales and Lions outside-half Gareth Davies will succeed David Pickering as the governing body’s chairman following a secret ballot.
The Newport Gwent Dragons CEO will resign his position at the Welsh region before taking up his new position at the WRU and revealed he was proud to take up the position.
“We must continue to evolve and develop to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges ahead and I am determined to ensure the WRU is a governing body we can be proud of,” said Davies.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board, the Executive and staff of the WRU and everyone involved in our sport to ensure we build on the success of recent years.”