Ospreys centre Ashley Beck may miss start of Six Nations
OSPREYS centre Ashley Beck could miss the region's crucial remaining Heineken Cup pool matches and Wales's opening Six Nations fixtures with an ankle injury.
Beck, who limped out of the Ospreys' win over the Dragons on New Year's Eve, underwent a scan yesterday and will certainly miss tomorrow night's home match against Zebre.
He is also a doubt to face Leicester on January 13 and Treviso the following weekend, two pivotal European clashes as the Ospreys cling to their slim hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
The Ospreys are also monitoring minor injuries to back-rowers Ryan Jones, Joe Bearman and Justin Tipuric, while lock Ian Evans looks set to miss the Leicester tie.
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The reigning RaboDirect Pro12 champions have hinted they might make some changes for Zebre's visit, and it looks like Beck's ankle sprain will force them into at least one switch among the backs.
"He is having a scan and we won't know much more until the next couple of days. It is a severe ankle sprain, though," said Ospreys backs coach Gruff Rees.
"It won't be a long-term injury but the potential is there to rule him out for at least this weekend but also Europe and beyond over the next month."
Beck came on as a second-half replacement to score the Ospreys' second try in their 14-3 victory at Rodney Parade, but he lasted only 16 minutes as he was forced off with an ankle sprain.
That was the Wales international's second touchdown of the season, but his injury could scupper his chances of adding to his four caps during the Six Nations.
The Wales squad will meet a fortnight before beginning their title defence at home to Ireland on February 2, and Beck is now a doubt for that match.
The former Aberavon man will be a bigger loss for the Ospreys than Wales, though his backs coach at the Liberty said plans were already afoot to give some of the region's players a rest against Zebre.
"There will be changes across the board," said Rees.
"The way the fixtures panned out it stretches you to a certain degree but we had a little gap between the Toulouse and the Scarlets game.
"It has been a physical toll playing three games in ten days and we will freshen things up."
Another player who looks set to miss a large part of January is second row Evans, who is sidelined with a knee injury which could keep him out of the Ospreys' remaining Heineken Cup matches.
The towering lock, who played every minute of Wales's 2012 Grand Slam campaign, could also miss the Six Nations opener against Ireland, but Rees is more concerned about when he might be back for the Ospreys.
"Leicester is unlikely but hopefully towards the end of the month we can get him back on the field for the RaboDirect Pro12 games," he said.
"People are speculating internationally but hopefully we can get him back in an Ospreys shirt as quick as possible."
The Ospreys are more hopeful about the fitness of back-row trio Jones, Bearman and Tipuric.
Openside flanker Tipuric missed the Dragons encounter with a shoulder knock, while the other two are also being assessed.
Rees added: "A lot of guys have to be screened like Ryan Jones, Joe Bearman and Justin Tipuric, who missed last week."