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Wales coach Warren Gatland thinks prop Aaron Jarvis could offer cover at hooker

Published 03/09/2015

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named his team for Saturday's final World Cup warm-up game against Italy in Cardiff
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named his team for Saturday's final World Cup warm-up game against Italy in Cardiff

Wales have identified tighthead prop Aaron Jarvis as a player to provide possible emergency cover at hooker during the World Cup.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland named only two hookers - Scott Baldwin and Ken Owens - rather than a more conventional three in his 31-man World Cup squad that was announced earlier this week.

It has raised concerns in some quarters that Wales, who are grouped with fellow World Cup heavyweights England and Australia, might lack suitable reserves if injuries strike.

Australia boss Michael Cheika has also only selected two hookers in his squad

Baldwin rests a minor toe injury on Saturday when Wales play their final tournament warm-up game against Millennium Stadium visitors Italy, with Cardiff Blues forward Kristian Dacey - who has not gained World Cup selection - providing bench back-up.

Wales could conceivably add a third hooker to their resources during the competition - Dacey and Richard Hibbard would be options - but only if another squad member, regardless of position, suffers a tournament-ending injury.

If Baldwin or Owens are injured once the World Cup has started, then any replacement would have to be in Wales' camp for at least 48 hours before playing. The injured player, meanwhile, could not play any later World Cup role, once replaced.

"We are doing some stuff with Aaron Jarvis at the moment," Gatland said.

"Look, it's been highlighted that it's a little bit of a risk. Everyone is taking risks. The All Blacks have only picked three second-rows, some teams have picked two nines and two 10s.

"In every team, you've got some sort of exposure somewhere. We've looked at it, and if one of our second-rows goes down we would maybe replace them with a hooker.

"You've got to potentially have someone else to cover. That's the risk you take. We have weighed that up.

"It means if one of the hookers gets injured within 72 hours of a game, then you've got someone to cover, and then that hooker has got to get injured as well before you go to the final choice.

"You would be pretty unlucky if that ends up being the case, but we have got to make sure we plan for that.

"It's like everything, you've got to take a few punts and gamble a little bit. We know we are taking a bit of a risk here. Hindsight is a great thing, and hopefully we don't get caught out."

Sam Warburton, meanwhile, will make his first appearance of Wales' World Cup warm-up schedule when he returns to lead the team against Italy.

Warburton took a knock to his shoulder during training earlier this month and rested it for last weekend's appointment with Ireland in Dublin that Wales won 16-10.

Gatland has named a strong team for this weekend, with the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb and Gethin Jenkins also starting.

Prop Samson Lee, who is progressing well and continuing his recovery from an Achilles tendon injury suffered in March, does not feature among the match-day 23, but Gatland has delivered an encouraging fitness bulletin 15 days before the World Cup kicks off.

"Liam Williams (foot) is taking a full part in training next week, and Samson is full-out scrummaging in training, so that's a huge positive for us. He is going to be fit and available, which is great," Gatland added.

"Alun-Wyn Jones (knee ligament strain) is fresh and ready to go. It was sort of a one-week injury, and he's basically fit now."

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