Wales and Ospreys prop Adam Jones has been confirmed as the latest major injury ahead of the RBS Six Nations.
The British and Irish Lions tighthead is expected to be sidelined for up to eight weeks because of an elbow problem.
That means he is set to join his fellow Wales and Lions prop Gethin Jenkins in missing the whole Six Nations tournament, which Wales kick off against England in Cardiff on February 4.
Jones, who has won 68 caps, picked up the injury during the Ospreys’ Heineken Cup loss to London Irish last weekend.
The 29-year-old underwent a scan earlier this week, with the Ospreys now in receipt of the medical reports.
Ospreys head physiotherapist Chris Towers said: “The scans have confirmed our suspicion of significant ligament damage and soft tissue trauma to the left elbow.
“We’ve discussed the case at length, both with orthopaedic specialists and the Welsh Rugby Union medical team, and expect that Adam is likely to be out for around eight weeks.”
Jones’ injury is the latest in a series of setbacks for Wales coach Warren Gatland, who has overseen a run of seven successive Test matches without a win.
Centres Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop are both absent from his Six Nations plans due to injury, while scrum-half Richie Rees, who provided bench cover throughout this season’s autumn Test series, is banned until late March.
England also have their injury troubles though, with three key forwards – Lewis Moody, Tom Croft and Courtney Lawes – out of at least the first half of this season’s Six Nations schedule.
Gatland will name his Six Nations squad next Sunday or Monday, with Paul James expected to replace Jenkins against England, but ready-made alternatives to Jones are in short supply.
Gatland could consider the merits of an experienced player like Scarlets prop Iestyn Thomas, but that would mean James packing down in an unfamiliar tighthead position.
Jones’ Ospreys colleague Craig Mitchell is the current favourite to take over from him, but Wales have lost arguably the world’s best tighthead on current form.