Wales boss Warren Gatland has rewarded the “pretty outstanding” form of uncapped Leicester wing Jonah Holmes by selecting him in his autumn Test squad.
Stockport-born Holmes, who scored 10 tries in 11 games for Leicester last season and qualifies for Wales through a grandparent, is one of two international rookies among a 37-man group.
Ospreys wing Luke Morgan, a renowned sevens specialist, has also been called up by Gatland for games next month against Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa.
Holmes, 26, began his professional career as a scrum-half with Wasps, while he also played for Rosslyn Park, Henley Hawks, London Scottish, London Welsh and Yorkshire Carnegie before arriving at Welford Road.
“He has been on the Welsh exiles list, and his form for Leicester has been pretty outstanding in terms of the number of tries he has scored,” Gatland said.
“He was man of the match against Northampton at Twickenham a couple of weeks ago, when he played exceptionally well.
“It gives us an opportunity to bring him in and have a look at him. He has played at full-back and on the wing and he is quick and physical as well.
“I rang him last week. He has been on the exiles list since 2016 as a player to look out for and keep an eye on.
“Until we had selection yesterday, you can’t guarantee him anything. I had spoken to him and said we were interested, but that did not give him any guarantees that he would be selected in the squad.”
Leicester’s interim head coach Geordan Murphy, meanwhile, has hailed Holmes’ call-up.
“He has taken his opportunity since coming into the side and been very impressive at the back for us,” Murphy told the Tigers’ official website.
“We have always known how much of an attacking weapon he is, and it’s a just reward for his performances so far this season.”
While Gatland welcomes back eight British and Irish Lions to his squad following Wales’ successful summer tour of Argentina, including skipper Alun Wyn Jones, centre Jonathan Davies and hooker Ken Owens, he is also without a number of injured players.
Scarlets flankers Aaron Shingler and James Davies, Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau, Cardiff Blues back-row forward Josh Navidi and Ospreys centre Scott Williams are among the absentees, together with fly-half Rhys Patchell, who is currently sidelined because of concussion.
Assessing Patchell’s situation, Gatland added: “We are concerned about him. I need to reiterate and point out that player welfare is the most important thing for us.
“Rhys is going to come in with us – as will (Cardiff Blues fly-half) Jarrod (Evans) – and we’ve even had the discussion we might not even play him in this campaign.
“He will come in with us, we will look after him and he can train.
“I haven’t had this discussion with the Scarlets or their medical team, but, having spoken to Prav (Welsh Rugby Union national medical manager Prav Mathema), my view would be that if he did get another knock in the next game or in the next four to six weeks, then he probably needs to do what George North did and take the rest of the season off to get himself right.
“We will assess where he is.
“The most important thing for players these days is their welfare, and we will not be taking any risks with Rhys or pushing him to get out on the field unless he’s 100 per cent comfortable and confident, and we can see that confidence in his game.”