Aaron Jarvis gets nod as Wales seek depth
JOURNALISTS attending the Wales squad announcement for the autumn internationals were given goody bags containing an assortment of male skincare products produced by the sponsor, Dove.
There was a moisturiser in there, along with a face wash and a shaving balm.
Maybe someone felt the 59-year itch since Wales last beat New Zealand had started to afflict members of the press.
Certainly, it is overdue for Welsh players to deal with it.
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Rob Howley's squad for the games with Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia contained few surprises, with just the one uncapped player, Aaron Jarvis, from the Ospreys.
His inclusion is reward for a big start to the season which has seen him take a quantum leap forward. He has featured in all eight games the Ospreys have played and is clearly benefiting from the extra game-time.
There is also the point that Wales not only need cover for Adam Jones but they also have to find someone who can push the big man for the No. 3 jersey.
All the more so after Jones left the field injured against Leicester last weekend.
Seven weeks into the season, the 31-year-old has yet to complete a game, his knee problem an on-going concern.
It is courting trouble for any side to be so heavily dependent on one player. So the search has been stepped up to discover another tight-head of Test standard.
Samson Lee? The hope is that he will develop into the kind of hard-nosed, power-scrummager who could serve Wales well for years post-Jones.
But his experiences in Europe over the past fortnight underline that he is still learning his trade.
By contrast, the 26-year-old Jarvis is approaching his peak years as a prop and has made such progress in so short a space of time that the national team management believe he could be a player who could step up to Test level.
"He's playing tight-head, he's playing regularly and he's playing well," said forwards coach Robin McBryde.
"Tight-head isn't a position where we have great strength, but Aaron is someone who has taken his opportunity since the start of the season. He did very well against Marcos Ayerza in Leicester, with the Ospreys scrum holding up well after he came on.
"He's been hugely competitive this season and his coaches at the Ospreys are very happy with the way his game is improving.
"Hopefully, a spell in this environment and a trip to Poland for a week's training will see him develop further."
McBryde continued: "It's important we create depth and it's important we create competition, because we need someone to put pressure on Adam. At hooker, the way people are talking we have two potential Lions in Richard Hibbard and Matthew Rees, pushing each other and vying for the shirt.
"We need that competition across the board, but it isn't there at tight-head at the moment.
"Samson Lee looks a good prospect and is developing nicely at the Scarlets. We need to make sure he is brought through at the right pace, because sometimes there can be a danger of players being thrust into the limelight too soon.
"That said, Samson isn't that far away and I dare say his chance will come sooner rather than later."
On the other side of the scrum, Ryan Bevington is included at loose-head, with the selectors believing he was unfortunate with some of the calls that went against him at Leicester last weekend.
Wales will have to do without the injured Dan Lydiate and his chop-tackling, but Howley went out of his way to pay a tribute to Ryan Jones. "He is still amazing," said the acting head coach.
"When he came off the bench against the Scarlets, he was outstanding, a mature player influencing the game."
An important spell beckons, with the World Cup draw at the beginning of December and performances in the autumn having a direct effect on seeding.
To prepare for the programme, the squad will head out to Eastern Europe and the dreaded ice chambers this Sunday.
"Players love what they get from going to Spala but they hate it minute-to-minute while they are there," said Howley.
"It's a unique place. You are able to give players an MOT of their bodies in terms of where they are at physically and the cryotherapy helps us to pack in more training. If we stayed at home, we could probably have eight to ten sessions in two weeks. In Spala we could probably have 25 to 30.
"It gives our preparation a huge uplift."
Those missing out include Aled Brew, Rhys Webb and Andrew Bishop, a shade unluckily, but there is a recall for Tavis Knoyle, the in-form Dan Biggar and Jamie Roberts, who returns after injury.