Sale Sharks director of rugby Kingsley Jones admits he is surprised by Dwayne Peel's omission from the Wales squad for the 2010 Six Nations.
The 2005 Lion is currently recovering from a groin injury which had threatened to rule him out action for up to two months.
But that diagnosis has now been reduced to as little as a fortnight, meaning Peel could be available for his country's tournament opener against England on February 6.
Peel has still not been selected by Wales and Lions coach Warren Gatland, however, and Jones doubts whether injury is the real reason for leaving out his star No9.
"The thing is that Dwayne Peel is a very popular player in Wales," Jones told the Manchester Evening News.
"The supporters love him, the public love him and the media like him and he's a great player.
"In fact, I think Dwayne is bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo is in Manchester, in terms of Welsh rugby.
"But there's this thing around him all the time. Now they've left him out because he's injured but, to be honest, Mathew Rees and Stephen Jones haven't played for three months but they are both in the Wales squad. So you can read into that what you want.
"He certainly hasn't helped himself in terms of selection by getting injured but, come on; let's have the real reason why they don't pick Dwayne Peel.
"If they don't think he's good enough, that's their prerogative but just come out and say it."
Peel, who joined Sale from the Scarlets in the summer of 2008, has been heavily linked with a return to Wales once his contract expires at the end of the season.
The 28-year-old's latest international setback has heightened speculation that he soon be back in the Principality, although Jones remains hopeful of keeping him at Edgeley Park.
"The way it stands right now, I'm constantly having to firefight regarding Dwayne and the Welsh media," added Jones.
"He's a fantastic lad and our relationship is superb but three months after he arrived here I read reports that he was leaving because he wasn't in a Welsh squad and that was when he had 18 months left on his contract. It's crazy.
"He has lots of options but I want him to stay and we will again meet his agent and take it from there."