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01 May 2023

Rugby World Cup 2023: Joe Hawkins Excluded from Wales Squad, 10 New Faces Announced

Joe Hawkins, the center player, has been omitted from the Wales’ World Cup training squad as a result of his transfer from Ospreys to Exeter. The 54-man squad welcomes 10 new players from Wales, including former England prop Henry Thomas.

Thomas is joined by Corey Domachowski, Kemsley Mathias, Keiron Assiratti, Will Davies-King, Teddy Williams, Max Llewellyn, Joe Roberts, Keiran Williams, and Cai Evans. Lock Cory Hill also makes a comeback.

Eligibility of Prop Thomas

Montpellier’s prop Thomas, who earned seven caps for England between 2013 and 2014, has been included in the squad. He qualifies to represent Wales through his father, in accordance with World Rugby regulations, since he last played for England more than three years ago.

Wyn Jones, Bradley Roberts, and Rhys Patchell, all members of the 2023 Six Nations squad, are absent. Scarlets half-backs Gareth Davies and Sam Costelow, along with Ospreys prop Nicky Smith, have been recalled. Taine Basham and Elliot Dee from Dragons, Dan Lydiate and Dewi Lake from Ospreys, and Scarlets center Johnny Williams return after recovering from injuries.

Thomas Young, James Botham, Owen Watkin, Ross Moriarty, and Morgan Morris, however, didn’t make the cut.

Joe Hawkins’ Eligibility Issue

In March, Professional Rugby Board (PRB) Chairman Malcolm Wall stated that the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) was evaluating the future international eligibility of Hawkins and Rowlands. Warren Gatland was informed by the PRB that Hawkins was ineligible, while Rowlands could be selected.

Starting from the end of the 2022-23 season, players outside Wales must have 25 caps to represent their country, a decrease from the previous 60-cap requirement. Neither Hawkins nor Rowlands will reach the 25-cap threshold by then.

Hawkins, with five caps, will join Exeter from Ospreys for the 2023-24 season, while Dragons lock Rowlands, with 23 caps, will join Racing 92. If Hawkins had been uncapped when he signed with Exeter, he could have been considered eligible for Wales.

Hawkins was first named in a national squad in October 2022 and earned his first cap the following month against Australia. He played in the first four 2023 Six Nations games under Gatland but missed the final match against France due to injury.

Exeter’s Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, did not disclose when Hawkins officially signed with the English club but expected him to be available for Wales during the World Cup and beyond.

Rowlands’ situation differs from Hawkins’, as he is only two caps shy of the threshold before leaving Newport for Paris. The 31-year-old lock couldn’t add to his tally during the 2023 Six Nations as he was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Rowlands could potentially reach the required cap number during Wales’ three World Cup warm-up games in August. He was named Wales’ player of the season in 2022 and has been a vital squad member since his international debut in 2020.

Hill left Cardiff to join Yokohama Eagles in July 2021, initially making him ineligible to play for Wales. However, the 32-cap lock is now available again. Ospreys center Keiran Williams and Cardiff second-row Teddy Williams were part of the Six Nations squad but remain uncapped.

Cardiff center Max Llewellyn will join Gloucester but remains eligible since he is uncapped and has not been involved in any previous.

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