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Wales' injury crisis deepens ahead of finale against the Wallabies

By PA
(Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

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Wales assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys says it is unlikely that forwards Will Rowlands and WillGriff John will be fit for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series finale against Australia. Lock Rowlands and prop John suffered head injuries during Wales’ 38-23 victory over Fiji in Cardiff last weekend.

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John’s fellow prop Tomas Francis, meanwhile, is following return-to-play protocols after being concussed in training last week. And wing Josh Adams, who was withdrawn from the starting line-up just before kick-off against Fiji due to a calf muscle issue, is also being monitored.

Humphreys said: “Regarding the two head injury assessments [Rowlands and John], they are following protocols, but it is unlikely they are going to be right. Tomas Francis is again following protocols, so we are a bit more hopeful on that.”

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On Adams, Humphreys added: “Hopefully, he is going to be right. It will probably be a last-minute clearance on that, but hopefully he is going to be right.” Wales No8 Aaron Wainwright has been recovering from a shoulder problem, and Humphreys said: “Again, it’s going to be a late call. He has made significant improvement, so hopefully he will be involved at the weekend.”

Wales went into their autumn schedule of Tests against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia without injured star names like Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi. Then key personnel such as captain Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Ross Moriarty and Taulupe Faletau were ruled out injured after the campaign started; centre Uilisi Halaholo tested positive for Covid-19 and Liam Williams was unavailable to face New Zealand while he recovered from appendix surgery.

The casualty count is more than 20, and although Humphreys admits that back-drop has proved challenging, it will not remotely hamper Wales’ bid for a third successive victory over Australia, which is their sole current focus. “There is a team here who are battered and bruised off the back of the most challenging autumn that they have ever had,” he said. “We are just thinking about how we get the tank off empty to put up a show against Australia and go and win that game.

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“Clearly, we would have wanted more people available to us, but from my point of view it has turned out very similar to the last autumn, where we found out a lot about people. There has been a lot of positives.”

Wales’ tighthead prop position would be of major concern if John and Francis are ruled out, leaving only Dillon Lewis as a solitary specialist in that area without reinforcements being summoned. Humphreys added: “Dillon going on at the weekend (against Fiji) playing 75 minutes and he hadn’t trained all week because of some issues with both feet, I thought he was incredible.

“For a tighthead to go 75 minutes while covering two bad feet was an incredible job for us. It just makes us go deeper, try to find solutions and you find out about people. The people outside who could possibly be called in are all injured as well. It’s one of those. It is a testing time. The tanks right now are low, but I know that come the weekend we are going to be right and we are going to be ready for the fight, which it is going to be, against one of the best teams in the world.

“I think it (autumn campaign) has been brilliant for us in terms of finding out about people who can add to our depth. I don’t see it as being frustrating at all. Those injuries that we’ve had have forced players to play who probably wouldn’t have played much. So rather than look at the negatives of we are missing all these people and has it maybe stopped us winning, against particularly South Africa, I think the bigger picture is telling us we’ve got a team that can fight toe to toe with all those injuries, and that is a huge positive for us.”

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