Wayne Pivac is steeling himself for another body blow with Josh Navidi set to miss the entire Six Nations because of the shoulder injury he sustained while playing for Cardiff.
Wales’ head coach is already expected to be without Leigh Halfpenny for his team’s defence of the crown they won last season.
Now Navidi is poised to join him in sitting out the Six Nations after dislocating a shoulder in the United Rugby Championship match with the Bulls on October 9. A report in The Rugby Paper suggests Navidi will be sidelined for six months.
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It could mean the 30-year-old back-row forward misses Wales’ next nine internationals.
As well as Halfpenny and Navidi, Pivac is already without injured Lions Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate and George North for the forthcoming autumn campaign, with Liam Williams not expected to make the starting grid for the opener against New Zealand a week on Saturday after recently undergoing appendix surgery.
Rhys Patchell, Ashton Hewitt, Michael Collins, James Botham, Josh Macleod and James Davies are all also laid low heading towards the Tests with the All Blacks, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
And on Saturday evening the national coach saw Ellis Jenkins leave the field with a rib injury, though Cardiff insist the decision to withdraw him from the fray against the Sharks was just precautionary.
But if the gloomy prognosis on Navidi proves correct it will be a setback to rival any of them.
Injuries have plagued the back-rower since the last World Cup, restricting him to just four Test starts in the two-year reign of Pivac.
But when fit he is a nailed-on first choice for Wales.
They haven’t lost a World Cup match with Navidi in their side and he has been an important figure in the Six Nations-title winning teams of 2019 and 2021. When he was absent for all but one match of the 2020 campaign, Wales finished fifth, their worst finish in 13 years.
His selfless play and ability to operate across the back row make him invaluable to a coach but Pivac will bemoan Navidi’s seemingly never-ending injury misfortune.
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Definitely denied the services of five opensides for the autumn, in Navidi, Tipuric, Macleod, Davies and Botham, Pivac faces a straight choice between Jenkins and Taine Basham to fill the No. 7 shirt for the Test with New Zealand.
If Jenkins’ knock against the Sharks will be a slight concern, Basham continues to perform in top gear, with the 21-year-old outstanding in attack and defence for the Dragons against the Stormers on Friday evening.
Cardiff, meantime, face more time without one of their top players, with injuries and Wales calls meaning Navidi has played just six times for the Arms Park club over the past two years.