Decisions 'selfish', but exiles can play for Wales - Robert Howley

Robert Howley and Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland's appointment as 2017 Lions coach means Rob Howley (left) will be in charge of Wales in 2016-17

Wales interim head coach Robert Howley says players who have made the "selfish" decision to leave the domestic game will not be snubbed.

The Welsh Rugby Union has named seven exiles who can only be picked as wildcard selections in 2016-17.

Howley is stand-in for new 2017 British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland.

"It comes down to performance. That is the bottom line of our selection policy, regardless of the wildcard rule," said Howley.

"It is what it is, the landscape might change, but for the next 10 months we have three wildcards and will pick who is best for the whole squad."

Howley told Scrum V he dislikes the "Gatland's Law" term that is often used to describe a policy that could mean some leading players miss out on Wales caps this season.

Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts, Northampton wing George North and Bath pair Taulupe Faletau and Rhys Priestland are the four most high-profile Wales stars who must rely on wildcard selections.

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Dominic Day, of Toyota Verblitz in Japan, Gloucester flanker Nicky Thomas and Bristol scrum-half Rhodri Williams are the others affected.

Former Wasps and Wales scrum-half Howley added: "There are huge incentives to stay.

"Some players made the decision - selfish decision - to go away at the time and they've known about this for a period of time.

"I'm comfortable and just looking forward to the challenges of selection in the next four or five games."

Howley is in the role for the second time, having deputised for Gatland while the New Zealander was preparing to guide the Lions to the 2013 success against Australia.

"There is certainly a different feel about it now, only because Warren has said he is going in 2019," said the former Wales scrum-half and captain.

"So it is an opportunity. And the experiences I had the previous time in doing the role, I will need. It is exciting and I am very proud."

His role as backs coach has been filled by Cardiff Blues' Matt Sherratt.

"There is a little bit of a gut feeling about him and the synergy he has with the players," Howley said. "It is a left-field choice, but I feel it's the right choice at the right time, a fresh voice coming in.

"He seems very astute, technically and tactically and I like his attention to detail."

Howley says he is available to be part of the Lions coaching staff next summer, but insists his focus is firmly on the job in hand with Wales.

He "thorough enjoyed" being part of the Lions backroom team on the tours to South Africa in 2009 and Australia in 2013, but added: "Team Wales comes first - it's about Wales for the next 10 months."

Asked if his duties with Wales would prevent him having any involvement with the Lions, he said: "No. It's fluid. Our environment no doubt benefits from those experiences you have as a [Lions] coach.

"No doubt that will happen post-2017 with Warren Gatland coming back. But my message this year is that it's about Team Wales."

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