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Rugby Pod verdict on Wales axing Carre, rumour about Alun Wyn Jones

By Liam Heagney
Alun Wyn Jones and Rhys Carre train at the 2019 Rugby World Cup (Photo by Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

The Rugby Pod has given its verdict on the unceremonious dumping of Rhys Carre from the Wales squad, while also suggesting that men’s record caps holder Alun Wyn Jones was unhappy about making himself unavailable for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France.

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It has been a brutal 2023 all around for the sport in Wales and the negative focus has now shifted back onto Waren Gatland’s team with the finals now just 13 and a half weeks away from the opener in Bordeaux versus Fiji on September 10.

Gatland named a 54-strong training squad on May 1 that has since been reduced to 50. The legendary Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb all announced their retirements from Test rugby and then came last Thursday’s jolt, prop Carre being released on the back of a blunt statement that alleged he failed to meet individual performance targets set at the end of the recent Guinness Six Nations.

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Wales finished fifth in that tournament, winning just once in five outings, and the negativity that has surrounded the second coming of Gatland in charge hasn’t relented with training now underway for France 2023.

The WRU statement on Carre attracted a lot of social media feedback and Rugby Pod duo Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton, the respective ex-England and Scotland players, have now joined the debate – with the comments of Goode especially intriguing given the negative attention his weight generated during his playing days.

“It’s awful the reasoning they put out behind the statement because he [Carre] is a player who has spoken honestly about his weight battles,” began Goode on the final Rugby Pod of the 2022/23 season. “I think (Wayne) Pivac did it to him (first), ‘He has got to shift 12 kilos of timber’.

“Just outing someone like that, there has been a backlash about it on social media and Dai Young, who was his coach at Cardiff when Pivac said some stuff about him, said, ‘Well, he plays 70 minutes and his fitness scores at our place are pretty good’.

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“Coaches have their right to pick and drop anyone they want. I just think how you handle stuff sometimes, especially someone like Rhys Carre who has openly talked about his weight obsession and his issues – I’m talking about it from experience. It is something that may send him down a dark hole for no reason.

“You could just drop him from the squad without saying he is overweight or not fit or whatever.”

Hamilton argued that Test rugby was an elite sport and that reasons for dropping a player needed to be made public, but Goode didn’t agree in the instance of Carre:

Hamilton: You need to give a reason and we are in a high-performance environment.

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Goode: Yeah, but you can say that behind closed doors.

Hamilton: It’s elite sport, you have got to be fit, you have got to be conditioned for it. I can understand about being nice and kind to players but the way that you say things, the statement said that he had fallen in his general conditioning.

Goode: When have you heard any other coach say that about a player?

Hamilton: There aren’t many. But if he has fallen short in conditioning, he must be pretty far down the pecking order when it comes to the fitness stuff. He has been given lines and parameters for the World Cup.

Goode: That is his responsibility, but how you handle things, especially coming out of Wales with everything that has gone on there this year, the culture that has gone on and then you see players supposedly aren’t happy in certain environments, there are better ways to handle it. In my mind, I can’t think of any or many instances where a coach has outed a player in public like that so openly when they are not in a great place as a country.

Goode also had plenty to say about the Test retirements of Jones, Tipuric and Webb. “Rhys Webb came out and said, ‘The issues in Welsh rugby, I need to look after my family’. He is going to have an opportunity to go and play abroad and sign a contract.

The same thing that Jack Nowell did for England, he has gone over to La Rochelle, taken himself out of the World Cup picture.

“But with these guys [Jones and co], I’m hearing they ain’t happy and they are like, ‘Do you know what, I don’t want it anymore in that environment’. And it’s going to be a harsh environment because Gatland has come in and ultimately they were poor in the Six Nations, and he is now trying to change the narrative of what is going on and it’s hell for leather for them to try and catch up with other teams.

“I have heard the environment isn’t a happy place to be so the easy decision was for them to take themselves out of the equation. I might be wrong – it’s just what my sources are telling me.

“And when your heart is not in it for one reason or another – I’m not talking about pulling on a Wales jersey, I’m talking about the whole thing of getting to a World Cup in that environment – some players think, ‘I actually don’t want to do that’ and everyone just has to suck it up and get on.

I’m desperately sad about Tipuric, who has been an absolute stalwart for Wales over the years; Alun Wyn Jones, the most capped rugby player ever, that he is not going to be there when his performances are still good enough to go to the World Cup for Wales.

“I’m not saying he is the player that he was but for Wales, he is definitely in the top three second rows that could make an impact on that team.”

Hamilton, though, argued that Tipuric would have lost out in the long run for squad selection, even if he had committed to Wales’ RWC training programme.

“I know we spoke about how good Tipuric was for Ospreys in one of the matches at the end of the season, but you look at the quality of the back row – Aaron Wainwright, Gatland is a huge fan of him. You have still got Taulupe Faletau. Taine Basham is back fit again who, when he played for Wales, was a top player as well.

“Jac Morgan has been brilliant so in the back row, they have got a bit of strength in depth. Did I mention Tommy Reffell? He is playing extremely well so you can see why Tipuric wouldn’t be in that squad. Rhys Webb came back in, got man of the match against Italy in the Six Nations.

“Apart from that? It’s not me being harsh, it’s just me trying to see the reasoning behind it. But yeah, a lot has happened in Wales, Gatland has got a lot of fixing to do.”

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