Wales’ Rugby World Cup preparations have been dealt a massive blow with the news that captain Matthew Rees will not be fit to play in New Zealand.
The Scarlets hooker was undergoing intensive therapy for a persistent neck injury but he has not reacted as was hoped and is now having to undergo surgery.
Wales National medical performance manager, Prav Mathema said: “The safety and longevity of Matthew’s career is paramount, we are all very disappointed that Matthew will not be with us in the World Cup but his health is at the fore of our decision.
“Matthew will not be available for selection after losing his race for fitness from a persistent neck injury.
“Following a series of injections and intensive treatment and rehabilitation the decision has been made to omit him from the squad to allow him to undergo surgery.
“The medical teams of both the Scarlets and the WRU concluded unanimously to proceed with surgery.”
Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard has now been drafted in to replace the 30-year-old but there can be no denying Rees’s withdrawal puts a huge dent in Welsh hopes, just two days after a confidence-boosting 19-9 victory over England.
It’s the latest and greatest injury setback to Wales who will also be without Gavin Henson for the start of the tournament after he dislocated his wrist in the win against England.
Wales head into the World Cup as 80/1 outsiders for the title, but a better punt would be to back them to make the quarter finals at 1/5 – despite the setbacks they should still have too much for Samoa and are favourites to claim second spot in their group behind South Africa.