Biggar suffers as Howley wields the axe
June 2, 2012
Playmaker Dan Biggar knew before today's clash with the Barbarians that he would not be making the trip to Australia © Getty Images
In-form fly-half Dan Biggar was the biggest casualty as Wales trimmed five players from their squad ahead of this month's three-Test series with Australia.
Speaking following his side 's 30-21 victory over the Barbarians in a warm-up match in Cardiff, caretaker coach Rob Howley admitted wielding the axe was tough with Biggar, who helped steer the Ospreys to the RaboDirect PRO12 title
A total of four players who were on the winning side against the Barbarians - Martyn Williams, Will Harries, Adam Warren and Biggar, along with Ryan Bevington - are those cut from the squad.
"For those four who played in this game, they showed outstanding character and professionalism and were an integral part of the win," said Howley. "They were told earlier in the week - each player at a different time - so they could focus on the preparation and I have huge respect for these guys.
"It was entirely my decision, I didn't discuss it with Warren [Gatland], and it was the hardest thing I have had to do as a coach, in particular for Dan Biggar. It is not a reflection on Dan's form and over the last four months he has played particularly well for the Ospreys. We have spoken to him about his game management but sometimes it is a numbers game and it is about flexibility when it comes to selecting a squad to go to Australia."
Following a shoulder injury to Biggar, James Hook moved from inside centre to fly-half and steered Wales to victory with a 20-point haul to underline his versatility. As a result he is set to serve as back-up to first choice fly-half Rhys Priestland. "James is adept at playing at 12 and 10 and is a hugely talented player," said Howley. "His kicking was exceptional and his composure was fantastic under pressure today."
Howley was pleased some of the younger members of his squad were granted exposure to a strong Barbarians side. "Players like Harry Robinson, Justin Tipuric and Rhodri Jones had a good amount of top-level rugby today and that will be invaluable in terms of their development," he explained.
"Harry has pace and the ability to beat his man, he ran hard and every time he had the ball in his hands the crowd really reacted. He will learn and be better for this experience. What has been created since the World Cup is competition for places and we are delighted to have come through a highly competitive game without any major injuries - that is huge for us."
Forwards: Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Paul James (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues)
Backs: Ashley Beck (Ospreys), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys), Aled Brew (Biarritz), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Harry Robinson (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets).
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