Wales head coach Warren Gatland has hailed skipper Ryan Jones' form ahead of the autumn Tests.
Jones, who led Wales to the RBS 6 Nations title and Grand Slam in 2008, has retained the captaincy for a November programme that features appointments with New Zealand, Samoa, Argentina and Australia.
Gatland has no doubt the Ospreys back-row forward fits the bill: “I’ve always said we are very happy with Ryan. He has done a good job since he’s been captain.
“But the bottom line is when you pick a captain you want a player who is good enough to make the starting XV. Loose forward is a position we’ve had some players performing well.
“I’ve been very happy with the way Ryan has captained the team over the last few years - he has developed well.
“I thought his performances in the two recent European Cup games (for the Ospreys) were a couple of his best, and I thought he performed well against Glasgow (in the Magners League).
“He carried really well up there, and we think he is coming back into some form and that is good to see.”
Gatland’s 29-man squad for the November internationals met up yesterday, but Sale Sharks scrum-half Dwayne Peel looks unlikely to be available against New Zealand in 11 days’ time.
Because the All Blacks game falls outside the recognised International Rugby Board autumn Test window, Sale are under no obligation to release him.
And Peel’s probable absence takes on added significance given that Ospreys number nine Mike Phillips is sidelined for around 12 weeks with a serious ankle injury.
Gatland added: “At this stage, Dwayne is not available for the All Blacks game. He is desperately keen to be involved against New Zealand. He is pretty frustrated by the situation.
“If Sale decide to release him, or Premier Rugby, then there is a possibility he might be part of the 22 for the All Blacks game.
“The sad thing about it is it’s the player who is really being affected. I would go out of my way to make sure a player was released. Playing international rugby is the pinnacle of any player’s career.”
Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, but they threatened to end that long barren run last time out, leading the All Blacks at half-time in Cardiff before ultimately being outgunned.
And Gatland believes it is vital his players use the best bits of that performance to underpin their latest All Blacks mission.
“For us, it’s trying to really build on the confidence gained from the first 40-50 minutes against them last year,” he said. “We could quite easily have gone 16-3 up at half-time in that game.
“It provides belief and confidence that when we do perform at our optimum, we are capable of pushing them and putting them under pressure.
“They are always difficult to play against, but you have got to go in there believing that if we do perform, we’ve got a chance of winning.”