Warren Gatland gambles on fitness doubts for Australia Test

George North
Scarlets wing George North is struggling with a groin injury

Wales coach Warren Gatland has seven injured players in a 28-man squad for Australia's visit to the Millennium Stadium on 3 December.

Backs Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhys Priestland and Leigh Halfpenny are included despite fitness doubts.

So too are forwards Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris and Huw Bennett.

Sam Warburton retains the captaincy despite the return of pre-World Cup skipper Matthew Rees, but there is no room for veteran Stephen Jones.

Prop Adam Jones was ruled out with a calf injury within 24 hours of his inclusion and on Monday Gatland called up uncapped Scarlet Rhodri Jones to join Scott Andrews as potential tight-heads for face the Wallabies.

Rhodri Jones, 20, has been called up despite 29-year-old capped international Rhys Thomas being the Scarlets' regular tight-head prop this season.

The match, a repeat of the World Cup bronze medal match narowly won by Australia, will mark the end of Shane Williams' Wales career.

Wing Williams, Wales' leading try-scorer, has already been assured of a starting place against the Wallabies as he makes a final appearance before retiring from the international stage.

"As we have gone with the majority of our Rugby World Cup squad we have maintained continuity by selecting Sam again as captain for this game," said Gatland.

"But it is a significant boost for us to have someone of the experience and stature of Matthew Rees back in the squad which, in turn, means there is considerable competition in the hooker's position with both Huw Bennett and Lloyd Burns also with us.

"The fans have a chance to show the players how proud they are of them after their World Cup performances and it should be quite an occasion at the Millennium Stadium, especially with the Shane Williams factor thrown in.

"But we won't be sitting back and soaking up the atmosphere - Shane will want to go out in style and this squad wants to, and needs to, get back to winning ways."

Wales' first-choice scrum-half Mike Phillips, who has joined French club Bayonne from Ospreys, is not available because the match falls outside International Rugby Board fixture window.

Non-Welsh clubs are under no obligation to release their players for the game, meaning Phillips is joined by fellow French-based backs James Hook and Lee Byrne in missing out.

Exeter prop Craig Mitchell and Sale Sharks pair Andy Powell and Dwayne Peel were also not named for that reason.

Fly-half Jones, Wales' record caps holder, loses out to Ospreys youngster Dan Biggar, who returns after losing his place in the World Cup squad to the ever-improving Priestland.

Scarlets playmaker Priestland left the field with a shoulder injury in Friday's Heineken Cup win at Northampton, but the injury is not thought to be as serious as the one that ruled him out of Wales' final two games at the World Cup.

With Paul James injured, Mitchell unavailable and Adam Jones ruled out, Blues tight-head prop Andrews could add to his one Wales cap while Rhodri Jones could make his debut.

Andrews joins Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric in returning to the squad after failing to make the final cut for New Zealand.

Ian Evans, who made his last Wales appearance three years ago, benefits from Alun Wyn Jones' injury to return to the national fold.

Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, Dragons flanker Lewis Evans and Scarlets full-back Liam Williams are the only uncapped players included as Wales will look to avenge the defeat to Australia in October.

Wales squad to face Australia

Forwards: Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (capt, Cardiff Blues), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Lewis Evans (Dragons), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys)

Backs: Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets)