(Reuters) – Wales coach Warren Gatland has included lock Corey Hill in his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan despite the second rower being an injury concern having not played for the side since February.
Gatland is taking a risk by naming Hill as one of four second-rowers — alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball and Adam Beard — considering the 27-year-old has yet to prove his match fitness after fracturing his leg.
Gatland has also selected five props, one fewer than expected, in Nicky Smith, Wyn Jones, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis.
Carre only made his international debut against Ireland in Saturday’s 22-17 defeat in Cardiff but he was selected ahead of the more experienced Rob Evans and Samson Lee.
Ken Owens, appearing at a third World Cup, leads the hookers along with Elliot Dee and Ryan Elias.
Wales have opted for six back-row players in James Davies, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright to complete his pack.
Gareth Davies, Aled Davies and Tomos Williams will contest the scrum-half position, with Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell the flyhalves with Jarrod Evans missing out.
Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes and Owen Watkin feature as the centres, with Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Liam Williams included as the back-three selections.
Centre Scott Williams was another to miss out even though he started against Ireland for the first time in more than a year.
“Selection is always the toughest part of the job and that is especially true come RWC time,” Gatland said in statement.
“Reducing the squad down to 31 has been extremely hard, especially when you look at the depth we have created and the amount of the work the training squad have put in, for some, 14 weeks of training.
“We are really happy with the final 31, we feel there is an excellent blend to the squad, in terms of talent, experience and age profile and we are all incredibly excited about heading to Japan and what lies ahead.”
Wales are in Pool D at the World Cup and open their campaign against Georgia in Toyota on Sept. 23. They will also face Australia, Fiji and Uruguay.
Forwards (18): Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Rhys Carre, James Davies, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Ken Owens, Aaron Shingler, Nicky Smith, Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright.
Backs (13): Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Dan Biggar, Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin, Liam Williams, Tomos Williams.
(Reporting By Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar)