“It was important to reduce the squad as we move into the rugby focused part of our training”.
“It has been a hard task reducing the squad down and deciding who will meet up with us again on Monday”, said Gatland, who must cut another seven players before the 31 August deadline.
There is a clear message in that all three play outside of Wales, with Hook and Hibbard at Gloucester and Phillips at Racing Metro in Paris.
The omissions of Phillips and Hibbard mean that he has decided his scrum-halves and hookers for the World Cup, although he added a caveat.
Gloucester star Hook has been largely a fringe Wales player since the last World Cup in New Zealand four years ago, but his versatility as a fly-half, centre and full-back led many to believe he would feature in the final selection picture.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has cut Mike Phillips, James Hook and Richard Hibbard from his World Cup training squad.
“There will be disappointment from the players but it’s important to stress the door is not closed”.
Five other less well-known players – Nicky Smith, Rory Thornton, Dan Baker, Rhys Patchell and Jack Dixon – were also released back to their respective regions, as Wales prepare to regroup next week ahead of their next Test against Ireland in Dublin on August 29. The great flanker Martyn Williams was persuaded to come out of worldwide retirement by Gatland in 2008 before being axed in favour of Sam Warburton during the 2010 autumn Tests and then failing to make the 2011 World Cup squad.
The pair, who have amassed 172 caps between them, were given a chance to prove their worth in Saturday’s first warm-up fixture at home to Ireland, but have been deemed surplus to requirements following the 35-21 defeat in Cardiff. Their opening World Cup match is a Millennium Stadium appointment with Uruguay on September 20, followed by further pool games against England, Fiji and Australia.
Revised Wales squad – Backs: L Halfpenny (Toulon), L Williams (Scarlets), H Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), G North (Northampton Saints), E Walker (Ospreys), C Allen (Cardiff Blues), T Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), J Roberts (Harlequins), S Williams (Scarlets), G Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), D Biggar (Ospreys), M Morgan (Bristol), R Priestland (Bath), G Davies (Scarlets), R Webb (Ospreys), L Williams (Cardiff Blues).