Wales' failure to secure the release of the Sale scrum-half Dwayne Peel for their final autumn international against Australia on November 29 has forced them to give Martin Roberts his first cap against Canada in Cardiff on Friday.
Roberts, the 22-year old Scarlets' player who has made only four starts for the region since joining from the Ospreys last summer, is starting instead of Peel because, with the other scrum-half in the squad, Gareth Cooper, also unavailable to face the Wallabies - he will be on duty with Gloucester - the Wales head coach Warren Gatland wants Roberts to have meaningful game time ahead of Australia.
Wales agreed a deal with Sale which would have seen Peel released this week to play in the league match against Worcester and then return to the national squad for the rest of the month, but it was scuppered by Premier Rugby, which insisted that no Premiership player would be available for Wales's game against Australia because, as the fourth international of the month, it was not subject to the regulation governing the release of players.
"Things could change between now and the end of November, but I have to plan on the basis of Peel and Cooper not being available for Australia," said Gatland. "The players are caught in the middle of this and it will cost them a cap. When Dwayne told me last year that he was considering joining Sale, I advised him to make sure that he had contractual release for internationals and training days, but it has been taken out of the club's hands by Premier Rugby."
Roberts, one of 12 changes from the side which narrowly lost to South Africa last weekend, hopes to make the same impact as one of the survivors, the Cardiff Blues' wing Leigh Halfpenny, who had an impressive debut against the Springboks having played just a handful of matches for his region.
"I would not have seen this coming six months ago," said Roberts, who made 20 appearances for the Ospreys, most from the bench, including a substitute's role in the victory over the Wallabies in 2006. "I was only playing every now and then, but joining the Scarlets has seen me get involved and get the chance to play for Wales."
The centre Tom Shanklin and the captain Ryan Jones, who moves from blind-side flanker to No8, are the other survivors from the weekend, while Mark Jones, who missed the South Africa game because of a knee injury, returns to the wing. The centre Andrew Bishop wins his first cap, while two replacements, the outside-half Dan Biggar and the prop Eifion Roberts, have yet to make their debuts.
Gavin Henson, who pulled out of the side to face South Africa because of a long-standing achilles tendon problem, is seeing a specialist to determine whether rest of surgery will provide a cure. "I have no idea when he will be available," said Gatland. "Conspiracy theories are being dreamed up surrounding his withdrawal, but he is a player who needs to feel 100% fit. He has a problem and the scan will determine the extent of it."
Gatland admitted his native New Zealand, who face Wales next week, would enter his thoughts this week. "They will be at the back of my mind," said Gatland, who will watch the All Blacks face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, "but we must not get ahead of ourselves. We are still disappointed at losing to a South Africa team we should have beaten and players will be in the shop window on Friday."
M Stoddart (Scarlets); L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), A Bishop (Ospreys), M Jones (Scarlets); J Hook (Ospreys), M Roberts (Scarlets); J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), R Hibbard (Ospreys), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Gough (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), D Jones (Scarlets), R Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).
Replacements M Rees (Scarlets), E Roberts (Sale Sharks), A-W Jones (Ospreys), A Powell (Cardiff Blues), D Peel (Sale Sharks), D Biggar (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues).