CORY Hill has been denied a Test return by an issue with his left ankle, but Warren Gatland would have been happy to call on the Dragons lock if it was a World Cup clash, writes Chris Kirwan.

The 27-year-old has not played since injuring the same foot against England when scoring the crucial try at Principality Stadium in part three of the Six Nations Grand Slam.

He was meant to start in the first World Cup warm-up against the English at Twickenham last Sunday but was pulled out after complaining of tightness, with Adam Beard starting and Jake Ball coming onto the bench.

Hill is no longer in a protective boot but will have to wait until the first part of the Ireland double-header in Cardiff on Saturday, August 31, the day before Warren Gatland names his final squad for Japan, to win his 25th cap.

The Dragons captain has been a key figure for Gatland since his 2016 debut and is still in a good position to be one of the locks that join Alun Wyn Jones at the World Cup.

“Cory is fine,” said Gatland. “If this had been a World Cup game then Justin Tipuric (foot) would have been fit, Cory Hill would have been fit, Adam Beard (wrist) would have been fit.

“When players have a slight knock there is no point in risking further injury when we go away next week (to warm-weather training in Turkey) and they would be able to play a full part in training.”

Rob Evans has returned to full training after a shoulder injury and then a sore neck from the camp in Switzerland.

Scrum-half Tomas Williams has had a scan on his shoulder and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks but should be fine for Japan.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe ruptured his anterior cruciate ligaments and damaged his meniscus when side-stepping and breaking down the wing in the loss at Twickenham.

“He is going to require surgery and unfortunately it’s going to keep him out of most of the season,” said Gatland.