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More trouble for Gatland as 'disrespected' hooker walks out

REACTION: Wales’ dwindling front row resources will come under the microscope as head coach Warren Gatland finalises his tour squad for Australia.

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Hookers Elliot Dee, Sam Parry and Ryan Elias are already out of the two-Test trip, while injury question marks hang over tighthead props Henry Thomas and Keiron Assiratti, with Dillon Lewis also thought to be struggling.

Gatland is due to name a likely 34-strong squad on Monday, when 21-year-old uncapped Cardiff forward Efan Daniel looks set to secure a tour spot alongside fellow hookers Dewi Lake and Evan Lloyd.

Assiratti went off during Wales’ 13-41 loss to world champions South Africa at Twickenham, having replaced Thomas, who has a foot problem, in the starting line-up.

Uncapped Ospreys prop Ben Warren is understood to be in the frame for a call-up should Gatland’s hand be forced on injuries.

“I spoke to Prav (Wales’ national medical manager Prav Mathema), and he is just going to reassess that and see where all those players are,” Gatland said.

“There are a couple of players with back issues and Henry with a foot issue.

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“We just need to make sure that assessment gets done so we can have a clear picture of where we think some of them are.”

Elias, wing Josh Adams and lock Will Rowlands have all been rested for the tour, which features Tests against Australia on July 6 and 13, with wing Keelan Giles and flanker Jac Morgan having been sidelined due to injuries.

But Gatland will be bolstered by England-based players such as Nick Tompkins, Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza and Tommy Reffell, who were all unavailable to face South Africa as the game fell outside World Rugby’s summer Test window.

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* Gatland, meanwhile, has given his response to Parry quitting the training squad during the build-up to Wales facing South Africa.

Parry reportedly believed he was “disrespected” by the Wales boss amid a claim it had been suggested to him he was only helping to prepare other squad hookers ahead of the Australia tour.

“I was straight up with him and told him what the situation he was in the squad,” Gatland added.

“I said that he was initially covering for Elliot [Dee] with the injury. So, I was clear on that.

“I said: ‘Look, I don’t want to stuff you around, you’ve been brilliant for us when you’ve come in with us in the past and we’ll just see what happens with that’.

“So, I am not sure how I disrespected him there.

“There was nothing from me in terms of trying to disrespect him. I just wanted to be honest and upfront with him.”

Elsewhere in the squad, there could be a place for former rugby league star Regan Grace, despite him having played only two senior games of union.

Grace was called into training following Giles’ injury, and the Bath player immediately impressed, with Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys describing him as an ‘X-factor’ player.

Grace scored 89 tries for St Helens during a league career that saw him play in three Grand Final-winning teams.

He ruptured his Achilles tendon in August 2022 ahead of joining French Top 14 club Racing 92, but he did not feature for them after suffering an injury relapse six months later.

The 27-year-old linked up with Bath to continue his rehabilitation, and he played in friendlies earlier this year against Leinster and Gloucester as he returned to full fitness.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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