Wales face second-row injury crisis
November 29, 2011
Jones is a doubt for the Six Nations © Getty Images
Wales may have to find a new second-row combination after coach Warren Gatland revealed that Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones could both miss the entire 2012 Six Nations.
Ospreys lock Jones and Newport Gwent Dragons giant Charteris proved an outstanding combination during Wales' recent run to the World Cup semi-finals, but they are absent from Saturday's Test against Australia at the Millennium Stadium due to respective toe and wrist problems that could have long-term implications ahead of Wales' visit to Dublin for their Six Nations opener on Sunday, February 5.
Jones' Ospreys partner Ian Evans will win his 17th cap as a result but the 27-year-old has himself been bedevilled by problems since suffering a serious knee injury in his last Wales appearance, which came against New Zealand three years ago.
Gatland said: "It's good to have Ian back. It's been a shame as over the last couple of seasons as he has been unfortunate with a lot of injuries and it is good to see him back in there as there is the potential that Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris could both be out for the Six Nations. So it's nice to have someone of that quality and ability back in the squad.
"We are sending Luke to the surgeon and he potentially needs an operation on his wrist, similar to the one Jamie Roberts had a little while ago, so he could be out for four or five months."
The injuries leave Gatland with Bradley Davies as the only available option from his leading trio of locks, and the lack of depth in the position means second-row bench cover on Saturday will be provided by Ryan Jones, a back-row forward by trade. Injuries have also sidelined props Adam Jones and Paul James, while centre Jonathan Davies misses out due to a groin strain, giving his Scarlets' colleague Scott Williams a start in midfield.
Cardiff Blues' forward Scott Andrews makes his first start in place of Adam Jones in a side showing six changes from the bronze medal match defeat to the Wallabies in New Zealand. Captain Sam Warburton returns following his sending off in the agonising semi-final defeat to France and the resulting suspension that saw him miss the third-place play-off, while Matthew Rees, the man he replaced as skipper, is among the replacements as Gatland keeps faith with Huw Bennett at hooker.
Half-backs Rhys Priestland and Lloyd Williams also make the XV with James Hook and Mike Phillips unavailable because of their club commitments with Perpignan and Bayonne. Gatland admits that there is a lack of depth in certain sections of his squad, and has targeted that as an area requiring improvement ahead of the Six Nations and looking further ahead to the next World Cup in 2015.
"It's always a challenge for us with two or three injuries and looking at the depth we have to cover those players," he said. "It's about building for the Six Nations and towards the next World Cup to try and increase that depth.
"Tighthead prop is one area we need to look at, as I have said we have a couple of second rows who are injured, the back three looks a little thin so the next few campaigns are about increasing squad depth.
"We know Australia will be tough this weekend. In the game against the Barbarians they made a very slow start but as game went on they looked very strong, especially in the second half and it's going to be a good test for us."
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