Edwards admits Rees agony
August 15, 2011
Matthew Rees would have captained Wales had he managed to recover from the neck injury © Getty Images
Wales' assistant coach Shaun Edwards has revealed the decision for hooker Matthew Rees to undergo surgery came down to concerns on the impact of the injury to his long-term health.
The Wales captain, 30, was on Monday ruled out of the global showpiece in New Zealand after failing to overcome the persistent neck injury which had kept him out of the back-to-back warm-up games against England.
Head coach Warren Gatland had revealed following Saturday's 19-9 win over the Red Rose that the Scarlets forward was in "severe pain," and intensive treatment and pain-killing injections have not been enough to save his World Cup hopes, meaning he will need an operation.
And Edwards readily admits the right decision has been taken. He said: "From a rugby point of view it is incredibly disappointing to lose your captain but there are more important things in life than rugby, and he is in such pain it has to come second to his life.
"Matthew normally has a bit of banter and a joke but he is not like himself because he is in such pain. You have to take the doctor's opinion and get it done because you can't live your life like that.
"We are gutted he is not leading us at the Rugby World Cup but it will be good to see him back leading a normal life without pain. He can't sleep and he is in constant agony."
The loss of skipper Rees, who has been replaced by Richard Hibbard in Wales' provisional squad, is the latest injury blow to hit Gatland ahead of the tournament. Fullback Morgan Stoddart will miss out after he broke his leg in the 23-19 defeat to England at Twickenham nine days ago, while Gavin Henson is facing an absence of six to eight weeks due to a dislocated bone in his wrist picked up during the return fixture in Cardiff on Saturday.
But Henson's injury will only see him miss the early stages of the tournament, and he could yet be handed the chance to appear at a World Cup for the first time. And Edwards was impressed by what he saw of the former Ospreys, Saracens and Toulon man during the half-hour he managed at the weekend.
When asked if he thought Henson could still have a part to play in New Zealand, he said: "I hope so because I thought he was doing great, and to say I am gutted for him would be the understatement of the century.
"He has worked very hard, made sacrifices and he has such bad luck with injuries, I couldn't be more gutted for a player. I thought he and Jamie (Roberts) were looking awesome together, especially in defence, and unfortunately he just gets injured again. "It seems like fate is not helping him."
Wales also have injury concerns over several other key players with prop Gethin Jenkins (calf), number eight Ryan Jones (calf) and fly-halves Stephen Jones (calf) and Rhys Priestland (thigh) all carrying injuries. The quartet were set to be assessed today to determine whether they will be in the reckoning for this Saturday's final World Cup warm-up contest against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.
But there is good news on the availability of Adam Jones (toe), Leigh Halfpenny (ankle) and Lee Byrne (knee). The trio are all set to feature against the Pumas, with the presence of Ospreys front-rower Jones a particular boost following the scrum difficulties Wales encountered against England, and the set-piece test they will face in their World Cup opener against South Africa in Wellington.
One man who will not be selected this weekend is flanker Sam Warburton, who will be rested with veteran Martyn Williams likely to be handed the chance to push for inclusion when Gatland reveals his final 30-man World Cup party a week today. Cardiff Blues back-rower Warburton excelled when leading the side against England and is now the favourite to be handed the captaincy for the World Cup.
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