Fly-half Dan Biggar gets Wales recall for autumn Tests

 

Dan Biggar has been recalled to the Wales squad for the autumn Test series.

The Ospreys fly-half last played for Wales against the Barbarians on 2 June but was not required for the subsequent 3-0 series whitewash in Australia.

His regional team-mate, tight-head prop Aaron Jarvis, is the only uncapped player in the 35-man squad.

Centre Jamie Roberts also returns after injury for a series that starts against Argentina on 10 November, before Wales face Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

Cardiff Blues flanker Sam Warburton continues as captain despite the Grand Slam-winning skipper modestly claiming he was unsure if he would keep the armband for the autumn series.

WALES' AUTUMN SERIES

  • Argentina (10 Nov, 14:30 GMT)
  • Samoa (16 Nov, 19:30 GMT)
  • New Zealand (24 Nov, 17:15 GMT)
  • Australia (1 Dec, 14:30 GMT)

*All matches at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

The Scarlets pair of flanker Rob McCusker and scrum-half Tavis Knoyle earn recalls, with Knoyle replacing Ospreys' Rhys Webb while McCusker is in for the injured Dan Lydiate.

Wales are without first-choice blind-side Lydiate for the autumn series after the Newport Gwent Dragons star suffered an ankle fracture.

Jarvis is one of six props named, with fellow Osprey Ryan Bevington and Blues front-row Scott Andrews recalled to join incumbents Adam Jones (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Toulon) and Paul James (Bath).

Scarlets prop Rhodri Jones (shoulder) and Exeter chiefs prop Craig Mitchell (bicep) were ruled out through injury, while Biarritz wing Aled Brew and Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop miss out on selection.

Full-back Lee Byrne is also not required despite his good form for Clermont Auvergne, while utility back Gavin Henson has only recently returned to action for London Welsh after a cheekbone fracture.

Caretaker coach Rob Howley takes the reins with Warren Gatland on British and Irish Lions duty, although Gatland will return to take charge against his native New Zealand on 24 November.

"We are really pleased with the strength and depth of the squad with some pleasing individual performances over the last three or four weeks," said Howley.

"But we all understand and realize the skill, physicality and intensity will go up over the next five weeks.

"Argentina are first up and after the experience they have gained in the Rugby Championship they will be a challenging and tough opponent, but this is a challenge we will look forward too.

"We know how important momentum is going into any series and the bigger picture is the Rugby World Cup draw at the beginning of December and how we perform against the Pumas, Samoa, the All Blacks and the Wallabies will have a direct effect on our seeding in that draw.

"We need a successful November to back up our performances at the RWC in New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year and we are determined to achieve it."

As part of their preparations for the autumn series, the Wales squad will return to Spala in Poland for a traing camp on 29 October-5 November, although they will be without those players contracted to French and English clubs.

Skipper Warburton was forced off with a bloody nose in Cardiff Blues' 14-22 Heineken Cup home loss to Toulon on Sunday, but has suffered no lasting damage.

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The flanker says Wales are eager to get back to Test action: "We have a series of tough matches to look forward to, not least the first against Argentina," said Warburton.

"The Pumas have been impressing everyone in the Rugby Championship. and are getting closer to the top three teams, just as we like to think we are and they will be looking to send a message around the rugby watching world by beating us in November.

"They are very much the same as Samoa in a lot of ways, they are a very physical team as well.

"Australia probably play quicker rugby and are a bit more expansive but the Pumas will be just as tough.

"All three of those games I think will be great spectacles and great rugby matches. The standard that Argentina are playing at now because of their involvement in the Rugby Championship now will make them even more competitive.

"I watched them against Australia and it was a game Argentina lost rather than the Wallabies won. They scored two tries and played very well, it was in Australia as well, and we know how tough it is to go out to Australia and play, so I was very impressed with that match.

"They have a couple of real world-class players they gave us a tough test when they came to the Millennium Stadium in the World Cup warm-up game last summer.

"I'm sure it will be equally as tough again because of the standard of rugby they've been exposed to the last few months."

Wales squad for autumn Tests against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia:

Backs: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets), H Robinson (Cardiff Blues), A Beck (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), J Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues).

Forwards: S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), R Bevington (Ospreys), P James (Bath), A Jarvis (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Toulon), A Jones (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), M Rees (Scarlets), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), I Evans (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), R McCusker (Scarlets), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt).