Jamie Roberts adds to Wales Six Nations injury worries
JAMIE Roberts has become the latest Six Nations injury concern for Wales interim coach Rob Howley.
Just a couple of days after it was revealed that Ospreys lock Ian Evans is facing a battle to be fit for Wales's defence of the northern hemisphere showpiece, the Blues have said that their star centre is likely to be sidelined for up to six weeks.
The British Lions powerhouse hyper-extended his elbow during last weekend's defeat to Australia in Cardiff and as well as missing the majority of the Blues' Heineken Cup pool campaign, Roberts faces a race against the clock to prove his fitness ahead of the Six Nations opener against Ireland in Cardiff on February 2.
The Blues, meanwhile, will take on Montpellier at the Arms Park tomorrow minus Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies.
And it is a similar tale across the three Welsh regions competing in the Heineken Cup this weekend in the wake of Wales's bruising autumn series.
The Ospreys have travelled to Toulouse shorn of the services of skipper Alun Wyn Jones, hooker Richard Hibbard, second row Evans and prop Aaron Jarvis, who were all crocked during the bruising four-Test campaign.
And the Scarlets have also been hit hard. Back-rowers Josh Turnbull (knee) and Rob McCusker (ankle) are still on the recovery trail, while wing George North has been ruled out of this afternoon's clash with Exeter Chiefs because of a hip flexor problem.
Halfpenny is hoping to be playing again within six weeks as he nurses what the Blues have described as a 'stinger' injury, while Davies is expected to be back in training next Tuesday following his recovery from the concussion he received as a result of the hit by All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore.
Meanwhile, Howley as well as England coaches Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree are set to be part of the British and Irish Lions coaching team for next summer's Australia tour, according to reports.
The identities of Gatland's support staff are due to be revealed at a press conference in Edinburgh next Wednesday. And there has so far been no official response from the Lions on potential roles for Farrell, Rowntree and Howley that were reported yesterday by BBC Radio 5 Live.
There would appear to be no place at this stage for Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards.
Forwards specialist Rowntree and backs coach Howley were part of the 2009 Lions coaching team in South Africa, but it would be a debut for ex-rugby league star Farrell.
Howley worked as Wales's interim head coach for their opening autumn Tests against Argentina and Samoa last month, and he will resume that job for this season's Six Nations championship while Wales chief Gatland concentrates full-time on Lions matters.
Howley (1997 and 2001) and Rowntree (2005) both toured with the Lions as players.
The tour begins against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 next year, with the first of three Tests against Australia taking place in Brisbane on June 22. The Lions have not won a Test series since they toured South Africa 15 years ago.
If Howley does head Down Under, forwards coach Robin McBryde will be the likely man to take charge of Wales's tour of Japan this summer.
McBryde was at the helm in 2009 in North America when Gatland was forwards coach with Ian McGeechan's Lions in South Africa.
Fly-half Quade Cooper has ended speculation surrounding his future by signing a new two-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union and Queensland.
Cooper, who will make his professional boxing debut in February, has been shrouded in controversy after publicly declaring the Wallabies had become a "toxic environment".