Wales are braced to be without centre Jonathan Davies for their first two games of this season’s Guinness Six Nations.
Davies, who has won more than 80 caps and played in six Tests for the British and Irish Lions, will miss Sunday’s opener against Ireland due to an ankle injury.
And Wales head coach Wayne Pivac also expects him to be unavailable for next week’s Murrayfield appointment with Scotland.
Wing George North will line up alongside Six Nations newcomer Johnny Williams in midfield against Ireland.
Davies was hurt during the Scarlets’ Guinness PRO14 defeat against Cardiff Blues a fortnight ago.
“It’s an ankle injury,” Pivac said. “We are predicting he will be out for this match, the Scottish match, and he will be back for England (on February 27).”
Pivac is also without wings Liam Williams and Josh Adams, who are both suspended, for the Ireland encounter, but experienced forwards Ken Owens and Dan Lydiate are recalled, while captain Alun Wyn Jones is fit following a knee problem.
Wales won just three games under Pivac last year, and they have lost four on the bounce to Ireland, prompting a number of Irish pundits to predict an emphatic away victory in Cardiff.
But Pivac added: “Judge this team after Sunday with the comments that have been made.
“We know the pressure is building, if you like, in terms of expectations and results.
“But no one puts more expectation on results than the group themselves, and that is what people need to understand.
“So for us, this is what we do for a living, and anybody can coach when you are winning.
“The challenges are when you are in situations where you haven’t done as well as you would have liked, and hopefully this group is going to rise to that challenge.”
Lydiate, meanwhile, wins his 65th cap and returns to Wales’ starting line-up for the first time since November 2018.
“I don’t think you ever give up hope, but you have to be realistic as well,” Lydiate, 33, said.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 6, 2021
“It has been over two years since I have been involved in the national squad, but I have been enjoying my rugby at the Ospreys.
“It has been a tough couple of years, but this year we seemed to have turned the corner, so I am really enjoying my rugby. To get another chance here is a massive bonus.
“I am looking forward to it. When I started, I always wanted to play against the best, to see where I was at, and that hasn’t changed.
“They (Ireland) are a good back row, they have a lot of strength and depth and a lot of competition, the same as we’ve got here.
“I’ve been given an opportunity and, you know, I’ve got to do my speaking on the field. I am just going to go out there and just do what I do.”
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