WALES have delayed naming a team for Saturday’s must-win encounter with Australia amid their worst injury crisis for close on 15 years.
Aaron Jarvis has been officially ruled out of an encounter Warren Gatland’s team can’t afford to lose if they are to secure a spot in the top eight in the global rankings and a place among the second batch of seeds for the next World Cup.
The Ospreys prop is one of an estimated 17 players who are either out or uncertain of facing the Wallabies because of injuries.
Jarvis (knee), Bradley Davies (concussion), Ryan Jones (head wound), Jamie Roberts (hip) and Paul James (leg) all picked up bumps in the “brutal” encounter with New Zealand, leaving Wales’s medical team contemplating a casualty list that is rapidly approaching record proportions.
“Mark Davies, our physio, suggested the situation was similar to 1997 with the Lions, and maybe approaching the situation Wales found themselves in going to South Africa in 1998, where around 17 players were unable to make the tour,” said Rob Howley.
“When you consider how many boys were injured before the series — Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate, Rhodri Jones, Rhys Gill and Craig Mitchell come to mind — it’s fair to say we’ve had easier times.”
As well as the five ruled out before the four-Test series began, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker, Richard Hibbard, Dan Biggar, Ian Evans, George North, Davies, Jarvis, Jones, Roberts and James have bumps of one sort or another.
James is unavailable, anyway, as he and James Hook have returned to their clubs, with the Australia match outside the IRB Test window. Biggar, Evans, North, Roberts and Ryan Jones must prove their fitness.
There is a glimmer of good news in the shape of Gethin Jenkins and Mike Phillips securing release from Perpignan and Bayonne, respectively, for the final game of the campaign.
“We are delighted that three of our France-based players, Gethin, Mike and Luke Charteris, are available,” said Howley. “But all the bumps and bruises mean we can’t pick a team until Thursday.
“The game against the All Blacks was brutal. We are just hoping some of our injured players come through.” Commendably, Howley pulled no punches in condemning New Zealand hooker Andrew Hore for his cowardly assault from behind on Bradley Davies.
“What Hore did has no place on a rugby field,” said the former Wales captain.
“It was an absolute disgrace. He has been cited, so I am sure it won’t be taken lightly. It had a huge impact on the game. It was strange to see because that is not what the All Blacks are about.
“They are the best team in the world and good enough without having to resort to foul play. So we are very surprised by the actions of this player.”
Asked should the police get involved, Howley replied: “I have seen some comments suggesting that.
“It happened on a rugby field. We have not considered that. Whether there should be a licence to go to the television match official on such decisions, that is something only the IRB can recommend.”
Hook left the camp after making just two appearances as a replacement in this series, but Howley insisted Wales had their hands tied over the Perpignan playmaker. We knew James wasn’t available for the Australia game. That’s the way the cards have been dealt,” he added. “It’s disappointing. We want our players to stay in Wales, but we understand there’s a supply-and- demand situation and we recognise the kind of money French clubs are able to offer. All we are saying to the players is that if you want to play for Wales just make sure you have clauses in your contracts which cover preparation time and your ability to play for Wales.”
He claimed some players did have the relevant release arrangements. “James tried to obtain release for this game, but he couldn’t get it. Luke Charteris has.” kiper.com.ua