Taulupe Faletau and Sam Davies included in Wales squad but Rhys Priestland misses out
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 18/10/16 2:10pm
Interim Wales head coach Rob Howley has included Taulupe Faletau in his squad for the autumn internationals despite the Bath No 8's knee injury.
Faletau is one of three wildcard selections under the Welsh Rugby Union's senior player selection policy, along with Northampton Saints winger George North and Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts.
That means there is no place in the squad for 29-year-old Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland, who has earned 48 Wales caps to date.
Priestland's omission opens the door for exciting young fly-half Sam Davies to earn his first call-up. His Ospreys team-mate Rory Thornton is the only other uncapped player in the squad as he earns one of the berths in the second row.
Toulon full back Leigh Halfpenny returns to the squad after a year out with a serious knee injury that caused him to miss the 2015 World Cup, while there are also recalls for Dan Lydiate and Alex Cuthbert.
Wales host Australia on Saturday, November 5 before games against Argentina, Japan and South Africa.
Faletau suffered a knee injury in September on his Aviva Premiership debut for Bath but Howley is optimistic the influential 25-year-old will be fit to play a part against Japan and South Africa.
Howley said: "It is great to give the opportunity to players who are playing well for their clubs with the likes of Nicky Smith, Rhys Gill, Rory Thornton and Sam Davies coming into the squad.
"In addition it's great to be able to welcome back experienced players such as Dan Lydiate, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny, who have missed out recently with injury and that experience will be important this autumn.
"Taulupe is still in his rehab process and has been working closely with Bath. We hope he will be available in the later part of the campaign, but his experience will be vitally important to have around the squad.
"We know we have to start the campaign strong and have to replicate the accuracy and intensity our opponents will bring to Cardiff. We need to build on what we did in New Zealand and take it up another level for that opening match against Australia."
The squad will meet up to begin preparations for the campaign next Monday.
The full 36-man Wales squad:
Prop: Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Rhys Gill (Cardiff Blues), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys)
Hooker: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets)
Second Row: Jake Ball (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Bath Rugby), Bradley Davies (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Rory Thornton (Ospreys)
Back Row: Dan Baker (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau* (Bath Rugby), James King (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (C) (Cardiff Blues)
Scrum Half: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues)
Fly Half: Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Sam Davies (Ospreys)
Centre: Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Tyler Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jamie Roberts* (Harlequins), Scott Williams (Scarlets)
Wing/Full Back: Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), George North* (Northampton Saints), Liam Williams (Scarlets),
*Denotes Senior Player Selection Policy wildcard selection