Captain Alun Wyn Jones is set to miss Wales’ 2022 Guinness Six Nations title defence as the shoulder injury he sustained against New Zealand requires surgery.
Jones was injured in the first half of Wales’ 54-16 defeat to the All Blacks at the Principality Stadium in the opening round of the Autumn Nations Series and has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament.
Wales confirmed that following scans Jones and back-row Ross Moriarty, who also was replaced before half-time with a shoulder issue, would both require surgery and were facing “a number of months out”.
Speaking ahead of Wales’ game against South Africa, coach Wayne Pivac revealed Jones is unlikely to play any part in next year’s Guinness Six Nations, that gets underway with a trip to Ireland on February 5, but suggested he can make the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
He said: “I don’t think he’ll be available for the Six Nations.
“The intention is always to see if Al can get to the World Cup,” he added.
“I think it’s a realistic goal personally.
“You’ve just got to see him in training and when he’s playing, the efforts he puts in.
“I don’t see anything going anywhere near backwards in terms of his performances.
“A bit of time off, we spoke about this before Al left camp, it’s not ideal for him.
“We’re all looking forward to him playing 150 Test matches for Wales but that is still a goal and I’m sure he’ll get there.”
Moriarty’s injury came in a contentious tackle from New Zealand pair Nepo Laulala and Ethan Blackadder, the former being shown a yellow card for failing to wrap his arm.
Jones, while winning a record-breaking 149th cap for his country, hurt the same shoulder he dislocated against Japan playing for the British & Irish Lions in June while attempting to make a tackle on All Blacks full-back Jordie Barrett.
Having been initially withdrawn from the Lions tour, Jones staged a remarkable comeback in time for the Test series, where he captained Warren Gatland’s side to a 2-1 defeat in South Africa, but the need for surgery has put paid to hopes for a similarly rapid return this time around.
Wales’ talismanic second row Jones has won five Guinness Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams but now faces a race against time to play a part in next year’s championship.
Wales lifted the trophy last season after four wins from their five games, only a last-gasp try from France denying them a Grand Slam, but may be deprived of their inspirational leader in 2022.
After opening up against Ireland, Wales host Scotland a week later before facing England at Twickenham.
They then conclude their 2022 campaign with back-to-back games against France and Italy, both in Cardiff.
Taulupe Faletau was one of the stars of Wales’ title-winning campaign in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, but the No.8 will also play no part in the Autumn Nations Series, with games against South Africa, Fiji and Australia remaining for Pivac’s men.
An ankle injury Faletau sustained in training with Bath means he will return to the Gallagher Premiership side, who it was announced he will be leaving at the end of the season to join an as yet unnamed Welsh region, after being released from the Wales squad.
In the short-term there is better news for the Dragons with Liam Williams and Ellis Jenkins both in contention for South Africa.
Wales have welcomed Cardiff Rugby’s second row or flanker Shane Lewis-Hughes and Ospreys’ uncapped lock Rhys Davies into their squad.
Lewis-Hughes, 23, made his debut against Scotland in 2020 during the Autumn Nations Cup and made two further appearances against Ireland and England in the same competition last year.
Davies, 22, will be hoping to win his first cap having previously been called into the summer squad.
Meanwhile, centre Willis Halaholo will rejoin the Welsh squad on Friday having spent ten days in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.