Wales warn missing stars

Gatland may axe France and England-based players for Six Nations

Last Updated: 21/11/11 5:46pm

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Warren Gatland: Issued stark warning to players not released by French and English clubs for Australia clash

Warren Gatland: Issued stark warning to players not released by French and English clubs for Australia clash

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Wales head coach Warren Gatland has warned his France and England-based players they face Six Nations heartbreak if they cannot secure full availability.

Gatland is preparing his side for their meeting with Australia at the Millennium Stadium on December 3 without six stars plying their trade outside of the Celtic League.

France-based trio James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne, plus Exeter prop Craig Mitchell and Sale duo Andy Powell and Dwayne Peel, have not been released by their respective clubs.

"If those players in France and England can't get full release for the Six Nations then they will not be selected in the squad."
Warren Gatland Quotes of the week

The game falls outside the International Rugby Board's designated Test window and means clubs are not obligated to release their players for international duty.

But Gatland has made it clear that players not available for the start of Six Nations preparations will not be selected for the tournament.

Concern

The New Zealander said: "We knew the English and French-based players would not be available because this game is outside that IRB window.

"But we have said before, and we have been pretty consistent in this situation, that if those players in France and England can't get full release for the Six Nations then they will not be selected in the squad.

"We have been disappointed to hear that a couple of them had verbal agreements but it is not written in their contracts, which I sat down with them and told them to do.

"So the warning out there is that if you are going to leave Wales, make sure you have full release for all Wales games and squad sessions in your contract.

"If you don't you are not going to be selected and it is a bit of a concern for us going forward."

Opportunity

Gatland's most notable omission was 104-cap fly-half Stephen Jones, with Ospreys number 10 Dan Biggar earning a recall instead.

But he insists it does not mean the end of Jones' 13-year Test career.

"Stephen has not been selected but there are a couple of others from the World Cup squad not selected," he said.

"He hasn't retired, we know exactly what he offers us and this is a chance to give someone else an opportunity in the squad."

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