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Gatland hopeful for Lee


Warren Gatland has had to change his Wales front row

Warren Gatland has had to change his Wales front row

Warren Gatland has had to change his Wales front row

Wales head coach Warren Gatland hopes that tighthead prop Samson Lee can make this year's World Cup - despite rupturing his Achilles and facing surgery.

Scarlets forward Lee, 22, is due to have an operation next week after being carried off just 14 minutes into Wales' stirring RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland last weekend.

Lee will be replaced in the starting line-up by Aaron Jarvis for next Saturday's Six Nations finale against Italy, when Wales are likely to require a landslide win to have any realistic chance of pipping rivals England and Ireland to the title.

Gatland, meanwhile, has also been forced into a change on the other side of the scrum, with Gethin Jenkins being ruled out by hamstring trouble. Rob Evans takes over from him in Rome for his first Test start.

"It's 50-50, I think," Gatland said, of Lee's World Cup chances.

"He was going to be operated on yesterday, but he's got too much swelling, so they are waiting until next week.

"We have the two warm-up games against Ireland, home and away (in August), and then we have got Italy after the World Cup squad is announced. So look, if he is up and running and in contention and things go well, he won't be far away.

"Whether we take the risk in naming him without too much rugby, that is potentially a possibility. Really, it's just down to the medics.

"For everyone with that sort of injury, it can be two or three weeks either side. I think he is a 50-50 chance at this stage.

"It's a full rupture, which sometimes is a little better than a tear that rehabs and takes a lot of time. At least we know what it is, and hopefully we can get it right and we can see him back on the field as quickly as possible."

Cardiff Blues prop Scott Andrews and Saracens' Rhys Gill will provide prop cover on the bench in Rome, while Wales also have highly-rated Exeter tighthead Tomas Francis in their Six Nations squad.

Gatland, though, confirmed there had been no discussion about 95 times-capped Adam Jones, who announced his surprise retirement from Test rugby earlier this season.

"If Adam Jones wasn't retired from international rugby, then he may very well be in the squad now," Gatland added.

"But as far as we are concerned he's retired, so until he makes a different decision, for us we haven't even discussed Adam Jones. He's not in contention for us."

Andrews and Gill apart, there are call-ups on the bench at Stadio Olimpico for hooker Ken Owens and scrum-half Gareth Davies, with 93 times-capped Mike Phillips missing out in providing cover for in-form number nine Rhys Webb.

Wales will head to Rome lying third in the table behind England and Ireland on points difference.

A comprehensive victory over Italy, though, would turn up the heat on their title rivals, with Ireland tackling Scotland at Murrayfield next Saturday, followed by England hosting France at Twickenham later the same day.

"If we were playing for a Grand Slam and having to win by one point, then some of the team or the bench might have been a bit different," Gatland added.

"We have picked players that we think can come on and have an impact and give us some go-forward and real footballing skills. This whole championship has been about horses for courses, and that's what we have done this week.

"One of the things about Gareth (Davies) is if you look at his try-scoring record. He's incredibly quick and he scores some wonderful tries out of nothing for the Scarlets.

"If we need him to come and run the ball and take the Italians on, that's part of the decision behind him being given that opportunity.

"The important thing for us on Saturday is not to get carried away about the scoreboard. Let's win the game first, because there are two other games afterwards.

"The worst thing for us would be to go out and try to score 40 or 50 points against Italy, end up playing too much rugby early on and lose the game and then find that Scotland and France win, and we have potentially cost ourselves a championship.

"We have got to be smart about the way we approach the game."