Wales have been dealt a major blow ahead of the RBS Six Nations with the news that prop Gethin Jenkins will miss the tournament with a toe injury.
The Cardiff Blues loosehead has been struggling with the injury for some time and he will now have surgery on the problem on Wednesday, meaning he will be sidelined for 10 weeks.
The decision has been taken to allow the 76-cap forward, who made his debut against Romania in 2002, to return in time for the Blues Magners League run-in and ensure he will be fully fit for September’s World Cup in New Zealand.
The 30-year-old has been dogged by injuries in recent seasons missing most of last year’s Six Nations with a calf problem before suffering with a similar problem during the autumn internationals.
Cardiff Blues director of rugby Dai Young said: “Gethin went to see the specialist late last week and the recommendation was to have an operation on his toe.
“The toe has caused him a problem for about 12 months now so he’s booked in to have an operation on Wednesday that would mean he’s out from 10 to 12 weeks, which will mean he will miss the Six Nations, which is a big blow for Wales and for us.
“The hope was that with reduced training and with rest the toe would heal itself. They’ve gone down every path because Gethin wanted to avoid the operation if he could but it’s at the stage now where the only option was to operate.
“The toe injury has affected his calf and Gethin feels he hasn’t played the way he’d like to because he hasn’t done the fitness training that he normally does.”
The injury will also see Jenkins miss the Blues’ two remaining Heineken Cup pool games against Castres and Edinburgh, although the Welsh region can no longer advance to the quarter-finals.
The absence of Jenkins means that Ospreys front-rower Paul James is likely to be handed the loosehead responsibilities when Wales open their Six Nations campaign with their Friday night clash with England on February 4.
Coach Warren Gatland has already lost Jenkins’ regional team-mate Richie Rees for the tournament after the scrum-half was handed a 12-week suspension after being found guilty of gauging during a recent Heineken Cup clash with Northampton.
Ospreys winger Shane Williams is also a doubt for the meeting with Martin Johnson’s side as he continues to recover from the shoulder injury he suffered against South Africa in November.
But fly-half Stephen Jones and full-back Lee Byrne are should be available.
Jones returned to action for the Scarlets against Edinburgh on Saturday while the Ospreys are hopeful of having Byrne available for their Heineken Cup meeting with London Irish on Sunday.