Rees set to miss World Cup
Wales captain Matthew Rees could see his World Cup hopes shattered by injury after it has emerged he faces probable surgery on a neck problem which is believed to be disc-related.
Wales coach Warren Gatland had hoped that any operation might be delayed until after the World Cup campaign, which begins against South Africa in Wellington on September 11. But it appears increasingly likely that such a possibility will be removed from the equation, and that Rees' World Cup chances are currently less than 50%.
"He has had an injection, but he is still in a lot of pain," said Gatland. "It looks like he will need an operation sooner, rather than later. We will have to sit down and discuss things with him."
Scarlets hooker Rees, 30, skippered Wales throughout their autumn Test campaign and the RBS 6 Nations Championship last season.
A Test starter on the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the 47 times-capped forward would be a huge loss for Gatland, especially given a tough World Cup pool that sees Wales drawn alongside the Springboks, Samoa, Fiji and Namibia.
Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard - Rees' Wales understudy last term - has not played since undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this summer, but is understood to now be fully fit.
If Rees is ruled out of the tournament, then Gatland would face choosing three hookers from Hibbard, Huw Bennett, Lloyd Burns and Ken Owens.
The captaincy, meanwhile, would undoubtedly pass to Cardiff Blues flanker Sam Warburton, who led Wales impressively against the Barbarians and England in their last two games.
Warburton, 22, will again be at the helm when Wales host England on Saturday in their penultimate World Cup warm-up game before flying to New Zealand.