Injuries derailing Welsh title bid before the Six Nations begins

When prompted on how he would replace Brian O’Driscoll in the RBS Six Nations, Declan Kidney commented that “you do not just lose one of the best players in the world, and when the replacement comes in expect everything to be the same”. Kidney will not be the only coach deprived of a world class talent this spring however, as Warren Gatland continues to count the cost of mounting injuries.

Already reeling from the loss of Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones, with fitness doubts over Jamie Roberts and Danny Lydiate, Gatland revealed at yesterday’s RBS Six Nations launch that Gethin Jenkins would be ruled out for four to five weeks with a knee injury, missing the matches against Ireland, Scotland and potentially England as well. “He’s a world class player. He’s got a very good rugby brain and is able to assess things on the field. He’s almost like a coach on the field.”

Jenkins also missed the entire 2011 Six Nations championship to injury, in a tournament where Wales finished 4th following losses to both England & France. Where Ireland have lost a player in O’Driscoll whose technical ability in his position is unrivalled, so Wales have done the same. Looking at the men behind him in the pecking order, Paul James has been a solid performer but is nowhere near the level of Jenkins’ quality. This therefore puts the spotlight on Ospreys prop Ryan Bevington and Saracens Rhys Gill to cover the position if Gatland wants to look ahead, though Bevington is behind James at the Ospreys and Gill the same with Matt Stevens at Saracens.

Almost as big a blow is the injury to Rhys Priestland, the star of Wales’ Rugby World Cup campaign whose absence in the semi-final with France with injury affected the side dramatically. Although he may only miss the first match against Ireland, the trip to Dublin is a brutal task for a weakened Welsh team against a side who have a score to settle following their controversial defeat in Cardiff last year, and the loss in the RWC quarter-final. Leigh Halfpenny is expected to take over the goalkicking duties with Priestland absent, with James Hook filling in at fly-half.

The -150c cyro-chambers in Gdansk will be required to work their magic over the next few days so that Lydiate and Roberts land on the right side of 50/50 fitness calls. At full strength, Wales perhaps could have won the Six Nations outright, but following these latest setbacks, the doubts are starting to creep in.

by Ben Coles

13 thoughts on “Injuries derailing Welsh title bid before the Six Nations begins

  1. Gill fully deserves his chance after his recent performances for Sarries. And he’s been starting more games since Stevens has switched predominantly to tighthead this season.

  2. To be fair, this happens to all sides, England are without Flood, Lawes & Wood, Scotland have lost Brown. Rugby is no longer a 15 man game, squad depth is vital, which was often NZ’s problem if Carter or McCaw got injured. France appear to be the only side not to be vulnerable appearing to replace any injures with an equally world class player!

      1. Ben I see you have succumed to the media driven concencus that one good win againt Ireland in the World cup has made Wales world beaters. They still lost to South African, Friance and Austrailia. The performances in the world cup aside, 2011 was a poor year for Wales and we are yet to find out whether the World cup “form” was the true Wales or temporary blip (much like England in 2007).

        I also think that if Flood, Tuilagi, Wood and Lawes were fit, we would be as much favourites as Wales given they (minus Manu) plus Croft, Hartley, Corbiserio, Cole, Palmer, Youngs, Foden and Ashton formed the majority of the 6N winning side last year. If England can get of the first 2 fixtures with one won, and get our first team out for the Wales match, no reason we could not be Champions again. I rather feel that the determining factor in this championship will be France, though.

  3. Ask your crystal ball what the lottery number are going to be, since its already told you England and Scotland wont win the championship?
    If im being honest, I can see the welsh scrum creaking a lot without Gethin. The guys got no rival in his shirt for all round technique and experience.
    This is one of the most open six nations ive ever seen, but France just edge it as favourites due to their depth of squad and the advantage of having no major injuries.

  4. Total nonsense that England can’t win. One of the things I love about the Six Nations is at least half the sides are contenders in any given year, and that in the past few years, not a single fixture is a certainty. (Italy might not be contenders, but you never know whose plans they’re going to derail.) Realistically, France, Wales and Ireland are the favourites but these injuries can make a huge difference. Add to that a new-look England team, a new Italian coach, and an exciting Scottish team with plenty of deep-fried Mars bars on their collective shoulder, and we should have a great tournament, especially if Andy Robinson keeps his mouth shut.

    1. Naturally, England have a chance. But it’s a small one. France, Wales and Ireland are just a step above the rest at the moment.

  5. The more I think about it the more I think this is France’s tournament to lose but then that’s true every year.

  6. I was convinced this was Wales tournament to lose and maybe they still have the quality to win but without Jenkins & especially if Roberts misses the Ireland match, Wales will do well to finish 2.

    Ireland win & Scotland come to Cardiff on the back of an England win & suddenly the Scots could avenge that horror game snatched from them in 2010 when poor Thom Evans career was finished.

    Of course Wales could win both games & only France will stand in their way

    1. Good to have this uncertainty about the old tournament a big change from the which one of England or France will win it era of not so long ago .

      On the Welsh injuries only Jenkins (of those named in the squad ) is certainly out and I wouldn’t put it past Gatland to be indulging in mind games to some extent. It’s true though that in the professional era it’s very rare for a team to be able to put out every one of it’s “first choice ” players . That is where strength in depth tells , Wales for instance will be down to the bare bones if there are any more first or second row injuries but have cover elsewhere.

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