With Wales due to name their squad for the Six Nations next week, Robin Davey puts on his paramedic’s outfit and examines who’s game and who’s lame as the regions go back into European competition this weekend.
The regions head back into Europe with little hope of real success after four pool matches, but the man praying for good news of a different kind will be Wales coach Warren Gatland.
The Wales coach – for the very last time – is due to name his squad for the Six Nations tournament next week, with the first game against France little more than three weeks away.
The problem, as so often it seems in the sport these days, is he is having to contend with a mounting injury list.
The list of absentees right now – those who might or may not make his squad – amounts to a staggering 18. Any more this weekend and he will reach for the medicine cupboard and a dose of alka seltzer.
Gatland has just had to digest the news that key full-back and goal-kicking ace Leigh Halfpenny will miss the opening fixtures as the effects of the concussion he suffered playing for Wales against Australia back in November is expected to sideline him for another three to five weeks.
On top of that, leading No.8 Taulupe Faletau has yet to resume after breaking an arm playing for his club side Bath as long ago as October. It’s now cutting it very fine for him to make the France clash, even if he gets back on the field soon.
And his likely replacement Ross Moriarty has also been out for the past few weeks, like Halfpenny still suffering the effects from concussion.
The toll from that worrying feature continues to grow. Ospreys centre Ben John has just announced his early retirement from the game which, in turn, followed a similar decision by Dragons back Adam Hughes.
There is something wrong with a sport that has tried to get to grips with elements of dangerous play, yet seems powerless to prevent other serious head injuries from happening routinely – often interpreted, as in the case of Halfpenny, as being within the rules as they are currently officiated.
The injury list is far more than that, however. Back row forward Aaron Shingler still out after suffering a serious knee injury while fellow back row men Dan Lydiate, Ellis Jenkins, James Davies and Ollie Griffiths are also all out of action.
In addition, front five forwards Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Bradley Davies, Jake Ball and Adam Beard are all missing, as are Josh Adams and Rhys Patchell.
It doesn’t make pleasant reading for Gatland as he prepares for his final Six Nations season before leaving for pastures new post-World Cup.
On the regional front, the Scarlets and Dragons have been particularly badly hit, so much so that the Scarlets were forced to field Wales hooker and their captain Ken Owens at No.8 against their East Wales rivals last week.
Owens showed his versatility and it appears is quite likely to be in the same position this weekend.
And the Dragons are now without as many as five props – Aaron Jarvis limping off with hamstring trouble against the Scarlets to join Brown, Brok Harris, Ryan Bevington and the banned Lloyd Fairbrother on the sidelines.
It means the Dragons will have to field Academy players in the front row for Friday night’s European Challenge Cup game against Timisoara Saracens of Romania at Rodney Parade, and very probably for the far more formidable test against Clermont a week on Friday.
The Scarlets and Cardiff Blues are both out of the senior Champions Cup competition with two rounds to go, the Scarlets failing miserably to follow up last season’s success when they reached the semi-finals, though the Blues at least gained the satisfaction of winning in Lyon.
The Ospreys could well make the knock-out stages of the Challenge Cup, having beaten Pau and putting 50 points on Stade Francais.
They need to get the better of Worcester at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
The Dragons, on the other hand, have conceded the double to Northampton while also losing against Clermont in France, so they are basically playing for pride.
At least they are showing some kind of form under the caretaker stewardship of forwards coach Ceri Jones following the dismissal of Bernard Jackman.
Now, though, an ever-growing injury list – lock Brandon Nansen the last casualty and out for two months with a hamstring injury -threatens to derail even that.
It never rains, though Rodney Parade did witness another glorious occasion last Sunday when Newport County, who share the ground, beat former Premier League champions Leicester City before a television audience of over 5m.
But that’s another story.
The post The 18 Injured Players That Weaken Wales, The Six Nations . . . And The Game Itself appeared first on Dai Sport.