Warren Gatland support for Matthew Rees
WALES head coach Warren Gatland has paid tribute to his former national captain Matthew Rees who has to undergo testicular surgery.
Cardiff Blues released a statement on Tuesday to say their skipper and hooker Rees, who is Wales’ joint most capped hooker with Garin Jenkins, “is to have an enforced spell away from rugby”.
After announcing his 35-man Wales squad for this autumn’s clashes with South Africa, Argentina, Tonga and Australia, Gatland said of Rees: “I personally spoke to Matthew when I got the news a few days ago.
“It’s a very tough time for him, he has our full support and fingers crossed things work out in the best possible way for him.”
The Blues statement read: “Hooker Rees, who joined the region from Scarlets this summer, will miss Friday's league trip to Ulster Rugby as he will undergo testicular surgery.
“Cardiff Blues would like to take this opportunity to wish Matthew a speedy recovery and we look forward to seeing him back in action in the future.
“The region will be making no further comment and would ask that the media respect Matthew's privacy at this time.”
Rees has won 58 caps for his country and played in all three Tests in the British and Irish Lions’ 2-1 series defeat to South Africa in 2009 also skippering Wales eight times.
He was a Grand Slam winner in 2008 when he and Ebbw Vale-born hooker Huw Bennett battled it out for the No 2 shirt and was captain by Gatland in 2010.
The former All Blacks hooker also paid tribute to Pontypridd prop Stuart Williams who died on Monday, aged 33.
Gatland said: "Our thoughts and condolences are with Stuart Williams’ family.
"On behalf of the Welsh Rugby Union and the national squad our thoughts and prayers are with his family at their very sad time.”
The father-of-two, Mr Williams was taken ill at work, Craig yr Hesg Quarry, and later died.
Pontypridd finance director Peter Howells described the prop forward as a "fine man on and off the pitch" who appeared well days before he died.
Mr Williams, from Glyncoch, was married to Vicky and the couple had two young children, Harvey and Megan.
The club said he had a "real physical presence" in the front row.
"I was with him on Saturday night, he wasn't unwell. Devastated is not the word," Mr Howells said.
A statement on the club's website described Mr Williams as popular and loyal.
"The club is today devastated by the news of Stuart's passing, and all thoughts now turn in deepest sympathy to his young family in their time of grief," it read.
"Stuart was a popular character around the club, one who gave his all as a hard-grafting prop forward on the pitch, a long serving and loyal member of the squad.”
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