The quality Wales XV Warren Gatland hasn't selected amid omissions and unavailability

-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

Warren Gatland has announced his 36-man squad for Wales' summer games, and there are some very notable absentees.

With the focus on youth going into the next World Cup cycle, Gatland has opted for a side with an average age of 25. Whether they will be able to step up to the plate in the months to come is an exciting prospect for Welsh rugby fans.

There are four uncapped players who have been given a chance in the squad, with Ellis Bevan, Jacob Beetham, Keelan Giles and Josh Hathaway getting well-deserved call-ups after strong seasons for their club sides.

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Wales will be without a wealth of Test match experience, as well as some club stars who perhaps deserved a call-up. There are also a couple of injuries, leaving a full XV of absentees.

15. Gareth Anscombe

The 33-year-old star has not played since the Rugby World Cup, and his contract was cut short with new club Suntory Sungoliath as a result.

Despite agreeing to join Gloucester Rugby ahead of the 2024/2025 season, and seemingly almost recovered from injury, many expected the fly-half to be included in Gatland's squad.

However, in mid-May the former Ospreys man confirmed he would not tour this summer.

The 37-cap Welshman revealed that he spoke to Gatland to inform him of his desire to not go Down Under with Wales. Speaking on thee BBC Scrum V podcast, Anscombe explained his decision.

"Speaking to Warren and the coaching staff, I feel as if it's the best decision," he said.

"I want to play well when I am playing for Wales and add something to the team. If I had gone I would have gone almost the whole season without playing and then be playing at the highest level after not much preparation."

14. Josh Adams

If someone told you a year ago that Wales would be going on a summer tour without Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit, it's fair to say you'd be pretty shocked. But then again, a lot can happen in 12 months.

Adams has struggled to hit form in recent times, and is acutely aware of that. The Cardiff Rugby winger has cited a niggling knee injury as a reason for his dip in form of late and was forced to have his knees drained because they were regularly filling up with almost 50ml of blood each time.

The 29-year-old will not be touring this summer, and Gatland has explained that the 59-cap wide man is not fully fit.

"Josh was one was where really, he's got a few niggles," he said. "He hasn't been 100% fit and it was about getting himself right, having a good break.

"And I said, look, ‘We can take you to Australia. We know we can manage you during the week. Even if you're at 85%, you probably could do a job for us with your experience and the way that you can play.’

"But the best thing for him was to get his body right, to hopefully get him back to. In the Six Nations, again, he was probably at about 85% of where he could have possibly been."

Wales will certainly miss his experience, but Gatland is hoping to have him back for the start of next season when Wales welcome southern hemispheres sides to Cardiff in the autumn.

13. Johnny Williams

Hard-carrying Scarlets centre Williams is a notable omission.

The 27-year-old signed from Newcastle Falcons in 2020 and made his stamp in Llanelli with a string of powerful performances in the midfield, alongside Scott Williams back in 2021.

Williams has earned himself seven caps for Wales so far, but is yet to establish himself as a starting centre in the Test arena.

His club side Scarlets have struggled this season, finishing fourth from bottom in the United Rugby Championship with just five wins all year.

The former England age-grade talent missed the first portion of 2024 after he was cited for a dangerous hit on Clermont centre Julien Hériteau in the Challenge Cup - he got a six-week ban. He was subsequently not named in the Six Nations squad.

Williams is relatively young and there is still plenty of time for him to earn his place back in the team. At his best, he's a destructive ball-carrier and valuable asset to any team.

12. Keiran Williams

Once compared to Scott Gibbs by Gatland, Williams has been omitted from the squad. Williams was also part of the World Cup training squad, but unfortunately he didn't make the final cut. His sole cap in the red jersey came against England in the warm-up at Twickenham.

At the age of 26 Williams still has plenty of time to break into the Test side, but he will be wondering what else he has to do, given how excellent he has been for Ospreys in the last few years.

Previously speaking on his World Cup omission, Williams said: "The last couple of seasons I felt I had played well enough to have one chance. I had a chance and I'm very grateful for that. I learned a lot over the summer, it was a tough couple of months, but it was worth it to have that cap and it's something I'll never forget."

11. Theo Cabango

Perhaps one of the most unlucky to miss out is Cardiff Rugby flyer Cabango.

Brother of Wales football centre-half Ben, Cabango has electric pace and a filthy step, and his performances for the capital city-region this season would have surely earned him a place on the tour.

Unfortunately for the 22-year-old, he injured his hamstring on Judgement Day at Cardiff City Stadium, which effectively ruled him out of selection. Gatland confirmed that the young flyer was a wing option before the injury happened.

10. Ioan Lloyd

There was tremendous hype about Lloyd when he was first announced as Scarlets' new signing. A star at Premiership side Bristol Bears and a box of tricks and skills, Welsh rugby was excited to see if he could take that form into the cauldron of international rugby - again.

He actually earned his first two caps during the reign of Wayne Pivac in 2021, but perhaps that came slightly too early for the number 10. In 2023 though, Lloyd seemed ready to step up, and in the absence of Dan Biggar - the hype was building.

An excellent performance at the Arms Park against Cardiff in a derby win at the tail end of last year really got Welsh pundits and fans feverish about the prospect of a new star.

However, despite some flashes of brilliance in the Six Nations, Lloyd failed to make the desired impact, and currently lacks the size for Test rugby - says Gatland.

"The thinking is looking at some other options, some depth at 10," said Gatland.

"There are some good young 10s in Wales at the moment but they are not big, they are quite small. If someone is coming hard down the 10 channel when you are playing a big physical side then you may need to match that with physicality of your own. Those are the conversations we are having about that position."

9. Tomos Williams

Gloucester Rugby-bound Williams has been battling with Gareth Davies for the starting nine berth for the past 12 months, and would normally be a shoo-in for a place in the squad.

However, unfortunately for the 53-cap Welshman, he ruptured the ligaments in his ankle in mid-March. The scrum-half was given 10-12 weeks to recover, with Cardiff boss Matt Sherratt expecting him to return for Judgement Day.

However, that scenario never transpired, and it looks like the Treorchy product is missing out based on this injury.

1. Nicky Smith

Thirty-year-old Smith spent over a year in the international wilderness between 2021 and 2022, but has featured regularly for Wales in the last year or so.

Smith made the World Cup squad and played against Portugal and Georgia, and followed that up with a great season in Swansea with Ospreys.

However, it seems the loose-head hasn't done enough to make it to the summer touring squad. The 46-cap man is off to Leicester Tigers next season, and will remain eligible to play for Wales - so there's still ample opportunity for him to fashion himself a place in the squad for the autumn or Six Nations campaigns.

Gatland said: "Nicky has done all right. It's about continuity and selection in a number of positions.

"We know what Nicky can do and for some of those players we've picked them and we want to continue to develop them and keep them in the squad. You can't do that with every single player in every single position."

2. Ryan Elias

The Scarlets hooker has been subjected to a lot of flak from the Welsh rugby public in years gone by, and perhaps unfairly so at times.

The 29-year-old front-rower is taking a break from international duty, with the goal of coming back better in either the autumn or Six Nations campaign.

Gatland explained: "Ryan felt that he needed a break and stuff, just to recharge himself."

Wales have chosen Elliot Dee, Dewi Lake and Evan Lloyd as their hookers for the tour instead.

3. Tomas Francis

Perhaps one of the most unusual omissions is Francis.

The tight-head prop hasn't really had much of a look-in since joining Provence Rugby in France's second tier.

He's a world-class operator and Wales will certainly miss his experience at scrum time. At 32 years old, though, the prop may decide to hang up his boots at some point in the next few years.

Gatland quashed that idea, for now: "He hasn’t finished but we didn’t consider him at this stage. He made the decision to go and play in France, but we will stay in contact with him. He definitely hasn’t retired. When you look at the tight heads we’ve picked there is a real concern for us in terms of experience, as well as players not starting regularly."

4. Will Rowlands

A talismanic figure in the pack, and if you remember rightly - a tackling machine in the World Cup against Fiji - Rowlands won't feature for Gatland's team this summer.

The 32-year-old has endured a pretty chaotic 12 months, and is deserving of a break from the international arena.

After signing with Racing 92, to the World Cup, to becoming a Dad, to the Six Nations, to the Top 14 play-offs - it really is all-go for Rowlands.

Gatland confirmed he wanted to save the big man from burn-out. He said: "Will, a little bit the same. It was tough because he'd come back from injury and then the birth of his daughter over that Six Nations period, and at one stage he wasn't going to be travelling backwards and forwards between games. But then Racing required him to go back and that made it difficult.

"So he's had a long season. The conversation with him - he's desperately proud to play for Wales and desperately wants to be part of the team going towards the next World Cup. The conversation with the players was about them.

"I said, ‘you've got to make what you feel is the best decision for you, not what's the best decision for Wales or what's the best decision for your club.’ It’s ‘what's the best decision for you personally in terms of whether you're available."

5. Adam Beard

Another tough loss to the second row is Beard - one of the most experienced players for Wales. A man praised for his work at maul time, Beard sustained an ankle injury whilst playing against Bulls in April.

Unfortunately for the towering lock, he landed awkwardly and is now out for a number of months. Ospreys head coach Toby Booth confirmed: "I can't see him playing for the rest of the season and it will be difficult for him to tour this summer.

"You have to get to a certain point before we can give exact timings but we are looking at months rather than weeks. I would have thought we would be looking at pre-season for us and in hindsight sometimes for a player that is a good thing."

6. Alex Mann

A pillar of Wales' next generation, Mann was one of the shining lights for the country after his performances in an overall dismal campaign.

Mann bagged two tries in his first two games for Wales and proved he has what it takes to make it at Test level one day.

At 6ft 3in, he certainly has the stature in a back rower that Gatland likes, but the Wales head coach has cited the 22-year-old's muscle mass as something that needs enhancing over the summer, along with a few knocks.

"He's been carrying niggles and stuff and hasn't been played. I think there's a good chance for him to have a good pre-season, to look at getting in the gym, putting on a little bit of size.

"Probably someone like, Taine Plumtree, having that break and stuff, he's come back and definitely put some size on. I think with Alex, we know what a quality player is, he's definitely got a big future ahead of him."

7. James Botham

Unlucky to miss out is Botham, but it's not surprising with the wealth of options in the flanks.

Wales have always been blessed with exceptional talent in the back row. From Sam Warburton to Justin Tipuric, it has always been tough to break into that loose forward trio, just ask Ellis Jenkins.

Botham has only just turned 26, though, so there's time for him to earn a spot if he plays his cards right for Cardiff next season.

8. Morgan Morris

Without a shadow of a doubt, Morgan Morris has got to be the unluckiest man in Welsh rugby right now.

Stellar performance after stellar performance, you can call Morris the postman with how much he's delivered for Ospreys in recent times.

The region are the team in Wales right now, and have qualified for the play-offs, with Morris at the epicentre of their success in the URC.

He has delivered now for the past three season for his club, but it's not enough for Gatland to select him.

Gatland said: "It's not just attack stuff it's both sides of the ball we look at. When we got through the videos and expressing that with the players it's not just the stuff we look at around the ball.

"We look at things off the ball and those sorts of things. Morgan has had some really good games for the Ospreys.

"We've got a lot of players in those positions as well but for him it's about working and making sure that he does things on both sides of the ball not just from an attacking perspective."

Morris has previously stated how he dreams of a Welsh cap, and despite it all, at just 25 there is time for that yet.

Unlucky to miss out: Dan Edwards, Joe Roberts, James Fender, James Ratti, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Cai Evans, Taine Basham & Tom Rogers