Wales have added experienced hooker Scott Baldwin to their squad ahead of the Six Nations as a replacement for injured Ospreys colleague Dewi Lake.
Baldwin, 34, last played international rugby in 2017 and comes in for Lake, who suffered a knee problem during the Ospreys’ Champions Cup win over Leicester.
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) confirmed that former Harlequins and Worcester Warrior, Baldwin, has joined the squad preparing for next week’s opener with Ireland.
Injury headache for Warren Gatland
Other options in the number two jersey for Wales head coach Warren Gatland are captain Ken Owens, and Bradley Roberts, with Ryan Elias ruled out injured.
The absence of Lake is another major blow for the promising youngster, who was injured for the Autumn Nations Series but bounced back for Ospreys since.
Baldwin has won 34 Test caps and last turned out for Wales against Samoa in Apia. He will look to change those statistics in the upcoming Championship.
As mentioned, Wales will kick off their Six Nations campaign on home soil against Ireland before they travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland in Round Two.
Wales’ 60-cap selection rule debate
In other news, Gatland believes there is a need for discussion on Wales’ 60-cap selection rule amid uncertainty surrounding the futures of several players.
The policy came into effect in 2017, with players who subsequently inked deals to play rugby outside Wales deemed ineligible unless on 60 caps or more.
And the situation is now magnified due to a recruitment freeze affecting Wales’ four professional regions of Cardiff, Ospreys, Dragons and the Scarlets.
A new financial agreement between the regions and WRU has yet to be confirmed in writing, sparking concern that players whose existing contracts expire at the end of this season could head away from Wales.
Wales and Dragons second-row Will Rowlands is poised to sign for French club Racing 92 for next season.
The current selection policy means he would not be available for Gatland’s Rugby World Cup squad later this year unless the rule is changed or he receives special dispensation from the Welsh game’s Professional Rugby Board.
Something we need to talk about
“I think it (the 60-cap rule) is definitely something we need to talk about,” Gatland said.
“We need to be pragmatic, and it would be disappointing if some players miss out on the World Cup. Why shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t need to?
“There has been so much turmoil in terms of getting the agreement sorted between the union and the regions. I think it would be a positive step moving forwards.
“I can’t blame players for exploring the options because there is a certain level of uncertainty in Welsh rugby at the moment, particularly for those who are out of contract.
“They need to think about their own personal situation, and that is perfectly understandable from my point of view. I would love to make sure we keep our top players in Wales.
“I don’t know if we need to look at the 60-cap rule, because at the moment, is it fit for purpose with this much uncertainty in the game in Wales at the moment?”