Worry for Wales as Craig Mitchell ruled out of Test series
WALES face a potential tight-head injury crisis in November after ex-Ospreys prop Craig Mitchell became the latest player ruled out of the four-Test series.
Mitchell ruptured a bicep in Exeter's Aviva Premiership defeat to London Welsh on Sunday. He is likely to be out of action for three months.
It follows news that Scarlets prop Rhodri Jones, who is being developed as the potential long-term successor to Adam Jones, will also be sidelined for 12 weeks following a shoulder operation.
British Lion Jones, currently recovering from a knee problem, will be the clear first choice in the No. 3 jersey and Wales coach Warren Gatland will be praying the 31-year-old doesn't pick up any further knocks in the coming eight weeks.
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But cover for Jones is a serious concern for the New Zealander and deputy Rob Howley ahead of matches against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
Paul James, as he has done in the past, is the obvious choice as Jones's deputy.
But with James now at Bath, there are still doubts whether he will be released for the final match of the series against the Wallabies, which falls outside of the International Rugby Board window. The same applies for Gethin Jenkins at Toulon and others like Mike Phillips (Bayonne), James Hook (Perpignan), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Aled Brew (Biarritz) and Andy Powell (Sale).
Gatland has been trying to negotiate a release for his non-Wales based squad members for the Aussie game and as part of any deal could offer a trade-off for another of the autumn Tests.
If he is without James and Jenkins, there are limited options at the four regions.
Scarlets' Wales Under-20s prop Samson Lee, who made a big impression during the IRB Junior World Championships in South Africa over the summer, would be the obvious choice, although he only made his first Pro12 start in the win over Connacht on Saturday.
Aaron Jarvis and Joe Rees have endured a tough opening to the season at the Ospreys, while Scott Andrews — drafted in to take on the Aussies in Cardiff last year — is yet to feature for the Blues this season.