Injury crisis for Gatland as Phillips and Peel miss out

WALES coach Warren Gatland has been left with a scrum-half injury crisis after Mike Phillips and Dwayne Peel failed to make the 35-man squad for the Six Nations squad.

Phillips, the British and Irish Lions star, is Gatland’s first-choice No9 but has been out since October after injuring his foot playing for Ospreys against Clermont Auvergne.

And Gatland’s misery was compounded on Saturday when his natural replacement, Peel, hobbled off of Sale Sharks’ Heineken Cup defeat at the Cardiff Blues with a groin strain.

It leaves Gareth Cooper as the only experienced scrum-half in the Welsh squad, while Gatland has filled the void by calling up Scarlets’ Martin Roberts and uncapped Richie Rees.

Gatland has also handed first call-ups to Ospreys duo Kristian Phillips, 19, and Tom Prydie, 17, as well as prop Rhys Gill, who has starred for Saracens this season.

“We are not 100 per cent sure how long Dwayne Peel will be out for,” Gatland said. “We’re just going to assess him over the next few weeks.”

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers coach Richard Cockerill has stood by his decision to play Tom Croft against Heineken Cup minnows Viadana on Saturday.

Flanker Croft suffered a serious knee ligament injury and is out for at least two of England’s opening rounds in the Six Nations.

“Crofty is a quality player who has played 20 minutes in six weeks, so he started because he needs some game time,” said former England international Cockerill. “He has done the same injury to the same knee he did before. It’s not a recurrence. It’s just bad luck doing the same injury to the same knee in the same spot.”

Wasps winger Paul Sackey has been ruled out for three weeks after sustaining a fractured cheekbone in his side’s 50-16 Amlin Challenge Cup win over Roma last Thursday.

It completed a nightmare week for the 30-year-old, who as overlooked for Martin Johnson’s England Elite Performance squad, instead having to settle for a place in the Lions’ squad.