Wales head coach Wayne Pivac does not expect star flanker Justin Tipuric to play any part in this season’s Guinness Six Nations Championship.
Tipuric, who has won 85 caps, suffered a shoulder injury during the British and Irish Lions’ pre-South Africa tour game against Japan at Murrayfield last summer.
And while it has not been dismissed that the likes of his fellow injured Lions George North, Taulupe Faletau and Dan Lydiate could be available for the tournament’s latter stages, Tipuric remains sidelined.
Alun Wyn Jones, the most-capped player in international rugby union history, Ken Owens, Leigh Halfpenny and Josh Navidi are also Six Nations non-starters.
“No, we won’t see Justin,” Pivac said. “George, Taulupe and Dan are probably the ones who would be the closest, but we won’t expect to see Justin in this tournament.
“He has been slower (in terms of recovery) than anyone would have anticipated or liked, but the Justin I know will be working very hard to get back on the field as soon as he can.
“But it certainly won’t be in this Six Nations.”
📰 Cardiff's James Ratti has been rewarded for his fine form for the Blue and Blacks with his first call-up to the @WelshRugbyUnion squad.
— Cardiff Rugby (@Cardiff_Rugby) January 18, 2022
Pivac’s 36-man Six Nations squad includes three uncapped players in hooker Dewi Lake, his Ospreys colleague – flanker Jac Morgan – and Cardiff number eight James Ratti.
And there are potential Six Nations bows for the likes of Exeter forward Christ Tshiunza and Ulster hooker Bradley Roberts as Wales build towards a title defence that begins against Ireland in Dublin on February 5.
“You don’t replace 680 caps overnight,” added Pivac, referring to the unavailable players.
“In some positions we have been developing players over the last 12-18 months and we are confident those guys can come in and do a job.
“There are some new faces coming in, which is always exciting. You get a lot of enthusiasm out of younger players.
“We would just say one simple message, really – it’s sad to lose any player through injury, but it creates another opportunity for another.
“All those players missing from the team-sheet had an opportunity at some stage, through apprenticeship stages to get through to senior level. It’s a good challenge for a lot of people.
“You always look at the firepower we have in hand, and sometimes you have to adjust things.
“We will have a good look at some of those players we haven’t worked with before, asses them and then settle on a selection for Ireland as early as we can to give that side time to run together.
“We would like to think a lot won’t change. We still want to score tries, we still want to attack where we can, but again, we’ve got to be able to play an all-court game.”