Matthew Rees may have been overlooked for the captaincy for next month’s clash with Australia but Wales boss Warren Gatland insists the return of the Scarlets hooker is a big boost to his side.
A neck injury ruled Rees out of Wales’ World Cup campaign, allowing Cardiff Blues openside flanker Sam Warburton to skipper the side in New Zealand.
In a self-confessed bid for continuity the Kiwi has kept faith with Warburton for the revenge mission against the Wallabies, who beat them in the third-fourth play-off, at the Millenium Stadium.
Rees proved himself fit enough for a return to the national squad after taking part in the RaboDirect PRO12 clashes with Ulster and the Ospreys as well as their Heineken Cup wins over Castres and Northampton.
And despite overlooking him for the captaincy Gatland says the return of Rees is a welcome one.
“As we have gone with the majority of our World Cup squad we have maintained continuity by selecting Sam again as captain for this game,” said Gatland.
“But it is a significant boost for us to have someone of the experience and stature of Matthew back in the squad.
“This means there is considerable competition in the hooker’s position with both Huw Bennett and Lloyd Burns also with us.”
However while there is good news for Rees the future appears bleak for his Scarlets teammate and Wales’ most-capped player Stephen Jones.
Fly-half Jones, 34 has been omitted from the squad and looks all set to have played his last game for his country with Gatland having not hidden his desire to only consider players who will be around for the 2015 World Cup.
However with Wales’ considerable foreign legion ineligible for selection there are opportunities for three uncapped players to make their mark in the 28-man squad.
Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, Scarlets full-back Liam Williams and Dragons flanker Lewis Evans have all been included while the domestic form of Dan Biggar sees him called up.
Fly-half Biggar won the last of his eight caps this time last year against Fiji but some starring RaboDirect PRO12 displays – the 22-year-old sits second in the leading points-scorers chart – have earned him a return.
FORWARDS: Scott Andrews, Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Lloyd Burns, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Lewis Evans, Toby Faletau, Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Ryan Jones, Danny Lydiate, Matthew Rees, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (Captain)
BACKS: Dan Biggar, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, Tavis Knoyle, George North, Rhys Priestland, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Lloyd Williams, Scott Williams, Shane Williams