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Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Friday, 5 November 2010

Wales boss Gatland praises injured captain Ryan Jones

Wales v Australia
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 6 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT Coverage: Exclusively live on BBC TWO & online, plus full commentary on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru

Wales and Ospreys forward Ryan Jones has been dogged by injury this season
Wales and Ospreys forward Ryan Jones has been dogged by injury this season

Wales coach Warren Gatland says he wanted Ryan Jones to lead the side in Saturday's autumn Test with Australia.

A calf injury sees the back-row miss the Wallabies clash at the Millennium Stadium, where the roof will be open for the game regardless of the weather.

"Unfortunately he [Jones] picked up an injury against Glasgow," Gatland said.

"And if he had come through that and been fit he would have been starting and would have captained the side against Australia."

In Jones' absence, Scarlets and British and Irish Lions hooker Matthew Rees will skipper Wales for the first time.

"It's a great chance for us to develop someone else within the team and Matthew gets his opportunity," Gatland added.

"Whether he does it for any more games, we need to look at Ryan in terms of how he's been recovering from that calf injury.

Gatland wishes departing Hook well

"He may be in consideration for next week [against South Africa], you might pick him on the bench but it's something we haven't really talked about at this stage and we'll discuss and just see what happens after the weekend."

Jones relinquished the captaincy at the Ospreys this season with fellow Wales and British and Irish Lions international Alun Wyn Jones becoming skipper.

That led to speculation about Ryan Jones' role within the Wales set-up - to the apparent bemusement of coach Gatland.

"Always I don't know why it's such a big issue in Wales about the captaincy," Gatland said.

"For me always it's been about making sure that your form is the most important thing to get selected in the side and that you're fit.

"I've said all along that Ryan Jones had done a good job. We had expressed concern to the Ospreys about the lack of game time that Ryan had had, he'd had a few times on the bench.

"If he hadn't played probably the London Irish game [in the Heineken Cup] we felt he would have been short of a game for the Australia game."

Jones missed the start of the season with a knee injury suffered on Wales' summer tour to New Zealand.

On his return to action, Jones found himself playing mainly at lock for the Ospreys as Jonathan Thomas was preferred at number eight, alongside Kiwi pair Jerry Collins and Marty Holah.

Jones has impressed at lock, so much so that the Ospreys have stated they see his future in that position.

The 29-year-old was restored to the eight shirt for the Magners League defeat at Glasgow a fortnight ago, but suffered the calf injury that has kept him out of Wales reckoning against the Wallabies.

Although Gatland is without Jones and Lions centre Jamie Roberts, the Wales coach says he is happy with the number of big ball-carriers in the side he has selected.

"I wouldn't mind putting the ball in [lock] Bradley Davies' hands as much as possible," Gatland said.

"I think we're trying to give him a bit of a licence… he's a player that's really come on in the last 12 months as a very strong ball-carrier so we expect him to carry a bit.

Elsom ready for Wales challenge

"And we expect that Matthew will carry quite a bit and Gethin [Jenkins] up front. We know that Sam Warburton's a good ball-carrier and Jonathan Thomas.

"There'll be lots of ball-carriers up front... it's about us doing a job up front to give the backs an opportunity to attack Australia as well."

The back-row of Thomas and Warburton is completed by Newport Gwent Dragons blind-side Dan Lydiate.

"Dan gets an opportunity," Gatland said. "I've had a chat to Dan - he played against Australia 12 months ago - he knew that it was a big lesson for him 12 months ago, a big learning curve.

"We think he's grown in the last 12 months. He's been very impressive for the Dragons in terms of defensively.

"In his ball-carrying he's been really strong and it's a great chance for him as a young player to show how much he's improved in 12 months.

"And some of the youngsters that we've been forced to play when we've given them an opportunity because of injuries have really grown up and for someone like Dan, this is a big test for him.

"We've seen players like Jon Davies, who again played against Australia 12 months ago and we've then seen improvement that he's had over 12 months.

"So for one or two of the youngsters it's a great chance and a great opportunity for them on Saturday."

Hook 'would prefer midfield spot'

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