Wales v Argentina: It's got to be Aaron Jarvis, says Ospreys' Gruff Rees
THE Ospreys have told Wales there is only one man to play tight-head against Argentina on Saturday week — Aaron Jarvis.
And there is also a ringing endorsement of Richard Hibbard from the camp of the Pro12 champions.
With Adam Jones sidelined by injury, Wales have four tight-head options for the game against the Pumas at the Millennium Stadium: specialist No. 3s Jarvis, Samson Lee and Scott Andrews, plus James, who is capable of moving across from the other side of the scrum.
But while the Ospreys have all the time in the world for their former prop James in his favoured position of loose-head, they reckon that first use of the national tight-head shirt this autumn should go to Jarvis.
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"I know Wales will make judgements on training, but they should be looking at Aaron Jarvis," said assistant coach Gruff Rees.
"He's someone who's done really well, seizing his opportunities, not just through his play in the scrum but around the park as well.
"He had seven ball carries last weekend, half a dozen tackles and good ruck stats. He's making a good contribution every week and would get his head down and not let anyone down if given the chance by Wales."
Not that the prize up for grabs would appeal to everyone, with Argentina boasting two of the best loose-heads around in Rodrigo Roncero and Marcos Ayerza.
James actually opposed Roncero in 2009 and has won six of his 37 caps at tight-head, including an appearance there against Australia in the World Cup third-place encounter last year.
But he is more effective in the No. 1 jersey and the Ospreys believe it is overdue for Wales to start looking for specialist scrum-anchors other than Jones.
"We have to find a bigger pool of tight-heads," said Rees.
"Paul is a fantastic pro who will do everything he can to make things work if he's chosen. But he isn't really a tight-head.
"Craig Mitchell has done a job in the past but he is injured. And I believe that while Samson Lee can benefit from training with Wales, he has to be nurtured and developed at the Scarlets and do more at pro level for a bit longer, although a lack of depth sometimes means you have to throw people in.
"I think Jarvis has earned the right. With the age he is and the different experiences he has had, the Argentina game is a good one for him. From there, Wales can start to make some informed judgements for the New Zealand and Australia Tests."
Rees continued: "Aaron has come on a lot since last season, developing physically by being in a good environment and growing up mentally as well.
"He has taken on some of Jonathan Humphreys's key messages about the scrum and he wants to contribute around the park.
"Once a player starts to crack the mental side of it and make breakthroughs in an Ospreys shirt, other things tend to follow quickly."
There is also a view at the Liberty that Hibbard, one of the players of the season in Wales so far, should be at the front of the queue for the national No. 2 jersey. "Hibbs has to be the Wales hooker," said Joe Bearman.
"He has been outstanding this season.
"People have been praising him and he's more confident, whereas in the past he's been put down a bit — I think he was blamed for one of the defeats against Australia in the summer.
"With Hibbs being in an out of the squad, on the fringes, I don't think he needed that.
"But a couple of boys have told him how well he's been playing this season and he has really stood up to the challenge. He's probably been our most consistent player.
"He seems to have been on a bit of a mission."