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Wales draw line under Hibbard issue

Wales say the issue of hooker Richard Hibbard playing for Gloucester in an Aviva Premiership game last week has been resolved.

It is understood that Hibbard met with Wales head coach Warren Gatland on Monday when he reported for squad duty ahead of next weekend's Millennium Stadium appointment with world champions New Zealand.

Gatland earlier stated that he would be seeking clarity from Hibbard after he went on as a 73rd-minute substitute against Harlequins on Friday night.

Wales did not consider Hibbard to face Fiji on Saturday because of an ankle problem. He was then released back to Gloucester at the west country club's request, and they subsequently selected him on the bench.

"We had to release him because he wasn't in the match-day 23 for Fiji, and he has gone to Gloucester and they felt he was okay to go on the bench," Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said.

"In terms of all the information we had, and with it being an international game, we felt Richard wouldn't have been fit to go on against Fiji.

"Gloucester felt he was fit to go on the bench, and promised that he wouldn't go on, and he has obviously gone on in the last 10 minutes and has presented himself sore (with Wales) this morning.

"Obviously, things can change from a medical perspective from the Monday to the Friday.

"We are happy that the position has been resolved. Richard is back with us, and we look forward now to the All Blacks game.

"I don't think he is a concern. It is soreness. If we had involved him in the 23 for Fiji, he probably wouldn't have been available for selection for the New Zealand game."

Gatland is due to name his starting line-up for the All Blacks clash on Tuesday, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny (concussion), centre Jonathan Davies (shoulder) and fly-half Dan Biggar (groin) all back in training.

Davies has not played for more than three weeks, while Halfpenny and Biggar were both injured during Wales' 33-28 defeat against Australia.

If Halfpenny is declared fit, it would leave Gatland needing to decide on a recall for the Toulon star instead of Liam Williams, who was Wales' best player in a lethargic 17-13 victory over Fiji, while in midfield he could face a straight choice between Davies and Scott Williams.

"Jonathan needs to go through some protocol with contact, but we are very hopeful that he will be up and running. He has worked particularly hard in training," Howley added.

"Leigh has got his last protocol today (Monday) regarding his head, but touch wood, everything should be fine.

"It will be a difficult selection meeting because we felt players put their hands up at the weekend, as well as players who have done well in recent games.

"It's good to have a player in form like Liam against a world-class, goalkicking Leigh Halfpenny, the Lions man of the series in 2013. Leigh has been as conscientious as ever over the last week since his injury. He has been doing his homework.

"We can only select three players in the back-three, and international rugby is about getting your selection right."

Wales face a Herculean task trying to stop the All Blacks, having lost 25 successive Tests against them since winning 13-8 in December 1953.

"They play a very fluid, dynamic game, they have got fantastic world-class players across their whole back line, and we always look forward to playing against the guys in black," Howley said.

"They play such simple basic rugby with the ball in hand. They do kick a lot, but it is on their terms and they earn the right to play.

"We have to concentrate on our own game. There aren't any weaknesses in a very good All Blacks side, so what we will try to do is put things in place where we can ask questions and make sure our emotions are at a level that hopefully will challenge the New Zealand defensive line.

"Against New Zealand, you need to keep hold of the ball, everything you do you has to be accurate and there has to be an intensity. It is important you ask questions where you think there are opportunities."

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