Defensive problems wreck Chris Coleman's plans
WALES are grappling with a crippling defensive injury crisis ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualification double header.
Captain Ashley Williams yesterday pulled out of Chris Coleman's squad for Friday's match against Macedonia at the Cardiff City Stadium and the trip to Belgium on Tuesday.
He joins a lengthy list of back four withdrawals that also includes Danny Gabbidon, Ben Davies — Wales's young player of the year — Sam Ricketts and Adam Matthews.
Wales had the option of turning to James Collins as a replacement, but a rift seems to have developed after Coleman claimed the West Ham defender snubbed his SOS call before last month's defeat in Macedonia.
Bristol City's Lewin Nyatanga is out of the international picture, so is Darcy Blake, who has dropped down the pecking order at Crystal Palace.
The defensive shortage has left Wales scratching around for a central pair to field on Friday.
And the suggestion is that former Swansea midfielder Owain Tudur Jones, now at Hibernian, could line up alongside Reading full-back Chris Gunter.
"It's always a good challenge when you turn up for Wales. You look forward to the games no matter what the situation," said Gunter.
"There have been so many injuries and it's unfortunate that so many of them have come to defenders.
"There are people like Ash, who's been playing well. He's injured but we'll just have to get on with it. That's the situation we're in. We've got to try to deal with it as best as possible and look to get a few results. This is probably the worst I've known it in terms of injury, there haven't been many training."
Gunter has played at centre-back twice before for Wales, against Mexico in New York in 2012 and away to Bulgaria two years ago.
It would be the first time Tudur Jones has featured there at international level, though Roberto Martinez tipped him for a future in the position when Swansea City boss.
Martinez also claimed the former Bangor man would one day captain his country.
Tudur Jones is back in a Wales squad for the first time since May 2011. The 28-year-old was called up on Monday along with nine other players, including Swansea pair Daniel Alfei and Jazz Richards, currently on loan at Huddersfield.
Richards could start at right-back on Friday, with club-mate Neil Taylor expected to begin on the left.
"You always say in football that one person's misfortune creates a chance for someone else to play," said Gunter.
"That's the way you always break into the team. You've seen with Neil Taylor, that was a big blow to us, but then Ben Davies came in and now we've suddenly got two top-quality left-backs.
"Most of the people who have played in the back four for this group are not here.
"Sometimes you have to do these things in football, try to overcome it. There's no point moaning. You won't hear the players moaning or making excuses because the ones who are here are proud to be here.
"Wherever I'm selected I'll just have to do my best and we'll see."
Aside from defenders, Wales are also without Gareth Bale, Joe Allen, Joe Ledley, Andrew Crofts and Jonathan Williams.
Ashley Williams linked up with the squad, but withdrew yesterday.
He has missed the last four Swansea games with an ankle injury and requires rest to totally recover from it.
Though Welsh hopes of qualifying from the World Cup faded a long time ago, they need positive results from these two games to avoid finishing bottom of Group A.
"Ash is a big blow, we're used to having him here leading us," added Gunter. "I think quite shortly after I came into the squad he got his first cap and has been on pretty much every trip.
"He's such a good player and he's been in great form for the last couple of years. You're always going to miss someone like Ashley, but it gives someone else a chance. I think that's the way you have to look at it."