HEAD coach Warren Gatland has warned Wales players plying their trade in England they face missing out on a World Cup spot due to Premier Rugby’s “ridiculous” decision not to release them until August 4, the latest date allowed, next year.
Wasps flanker Andy Powell and Sale scrum-half Dwayne Peel were notable absentees from Gatland’s 33-man squad for November engagements against Australia, South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand, partly due to the pair being unable to be involved against Australia as the game falls outside the International Rugby Board Test window.
And Gatland warned the stance taken by Premier Rugby, the body representing Aviva Premiership clubs, will harm their prospects of going to New Zealand next September.
“The major concern is we have had a letter from Premier Rugby saying players in England will not be released until August 4,” said Gatland.
“That is completely ridiculous to say the players will finish (the season) in May but not be available for national squads until August, two days before we play England in our first warm-up game.
“It’s going to limit players playing in England being available in terms of preparation or being available for the squad.
“Picking this squad we have looked at this campaign and the Six Nations, and if a player playing across the bridge is unavailable until August 4 it is highly unlikely they will be considered for the World Cup squad.”
Gatland, who has agreed a new four-year contract extension through to the 2015 World Cup, opted to delay naming his captain when he revealed his squad.
Ryan Jones, who was Gatland’s choice as captain when he took over in 2007, has only started one game so far this season after recovering from a leg injury, and there have been question marks about his form over the course of the last two seasons.
But he turned in a man-of-the-match performance playing in the second-row for the Ospreys against London Irish in the Heineken Cup on Friday and Gatland sees no reason to make a change in leadership.
“I think our concern about Ryan has been the amount of matches he has had,” Gatland said. “I watched him on Friday night and he was outstanding, but he needs a couple more games and when we announce the squad for Australia we’ll announce the captain.
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