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Wales hopeful over key men

Wales expect key players Matthew Rees, James Hook and Ryan Jones to all be fit for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Ireland in Cardiff.

But coach Warren Gatland's team selection, which will now be announced at 1pm today rather than on Thursday as was previously scheduled, might not prove as straightforward as anticipated, given the number of players currently nursing ailments.

A shoulder injury suffered by wing Morgan Stoddart means four of the team that started against Italy 10 days ago are carrying knocks. Injuries permitting, it is thought Gatland will make minimal changes for the Ireland game after successive away wins against Scotland and Italy.

A move back to fly-half for Hook is expected, with fit-again Jonathan Davies being reunited in the centre with Jamie Roberts.

Captain Rees and talisman back Hook are among the players Wales say have been "managing issues around training" ahead of Saturday's Millennium Stadium Test match.

Experienced Ospreys hooker Huw Bennett has been called into the squad as cover for Richard Hibbard (shoulder), while starting hooker Rees has a hamstring injury. Elsewhere, Hook and number eight Jones both have calf muscle problems, with Stoddart and back-row forward Jonathan Thomas (dead leg) also being monitored.

"Both Matthew and Morgan have responded well to extensive treatment since picking up their injuries against Italy," said Wales national performance medical manager Prav Mathema.

"Matthew has a slight hamstring problem, and Morgan sustained an injury to his shoulder during that match. But the medical staff have managed both players very well, and together with the hard work they have put in so far, we expect both to be available for Ireland.

"Richard has a shoulder problem sustained during his outing for the Ospreys this weekend and he needs rest at the moment, although he too should be okay for Saturday.

"Jonathan also picked up his injury at the weekend, and we will further assess him towards the end of this week. The issues with Ryan and James just mean they have taken a limited part in some sessions so far during our preparation, but again, both will be fine."


From Belfast Telegraph