Rees a World Cup doubt
Skipper less than 50 per cent likely to make New Zealand trip
Last Updated: August 11, 2011 11:33pm
Rees: facing World Cup heartbreak
Wales captain Matthew Rees could be forced to miss the World Cup after it was revealed that he faces surgery on a neck problem.
National coach Warren Gatland had hoped that any operation to correct the problem, which is believed to be disc-related, might be delayed until after Wales' World Cup campaign, which begins against South Africa in Wellington on September 11.
But it appears increasingly likely that Rees will undergo surgery beforehand - the player's World Cup chances currently being rated at less than 50 per cent.
"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 Six 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 that Wales have drawn a particularly tough pool alongside the Springboks, Samoa, Fiji and Namibia.
Rees' Wales understudy last term, Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard, 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 probably 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 serve as skipper when Wales host England on Saturday in their penultimate World Cup warm-up game.