That opened the door for Jamie Roberts - the biggest back in the Welsh line-up - to press his claim for a place at centre.
The 6ft 4ins and 16st 10lbs rookie Roberts starts for the Cardiff Blues against Calvisano in the Heineken Cup tonight (Friday).
And he has vowed to fight tooth and nail to keep his shirt for the opener with Scotland next month.
"I feel I can match Gavin and he's just like any other player," said Roberts.
"If I'm playing better than him then there is no reason why I shouldn't get the jersey for Wales.
"I respect Gavin and experience counts for a lot but whoever is playing better deserves the shirt for the Scotland game.
"The best thing for any squad is players pushing one another. Maybe, Gavin hasn't had that before at 12 but it's healthy. When you get that, it raises the standards for club and country and brings the best out of players.
"I'm just focusing on my performances in the next few weeks and then it depends on whatever combination Warren Gatland wants."
Roberts produced an inspired man-of-the-match display for Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup triumph over Gloucester last weekend - just a week after returning from a fractured skull.
The seven-capped star sustained the horrific injury in Wales' famous victory over Australia in November and has set his sights on re-igniting his midfield pairing with Blues' team-mate Tom Shanklin.
Roberts said: "I thought the partnership with Tom went well and we brought a lot of solidity to our game in the Autumn series.
"We've continued that and it's been effective with the Blues. I'm sure if we get another chance together, we'll do well for Wales.
"But there is huge strength in depth and competition for places with four players fighting for two positions."
Roberts could yet fill in for star full-back Lee Byrne should he fail to recover from an ankle injury for the trip to Murrayfield on February 8.
The medical student has already proved his versatility to Gatland after winning his first three caps in different positions - wing, full-back and inside centre.
"As long as I'm putting the Welsh jersey on, I'll be chuffed with that," added Roberts.