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Rugby Union: Wales boss Warren Gatland ponders captaincy and injury issues ahead of Six Nations

Injuries and a new captain look set to take centre stage when Wales boss Warren Gatland names his Guinness Six Nations squad on Tuesday.

Flanker Jac Morgan, who led Wales impressively during the World Cup in France, could miss the whole tournament due to a knee injury.

His World Cup co-captain Dewi Lake, meanwhile, went off injured during Ospreys’ European Challenge Cup victory over Perpignan, adding to a casualty count that also includes the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Christ Tshiunza, Taine Plumtree and Nicky Smith.

Captaincy contenders would potentially include Lake, Adam Beard, flanker Tommy Reffell and Beard’s fellow lock Dafydd Jenkins, who has led Exeter impressively on domestic and European fronts this season.

The more pressing issue is injuries, though, with number eight Faletau not having played since breaking his arm during the World Cup and Exeter forward Tshiunza recently suffering a setback during his recovery from a broken foot.

Wales kick off their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on February 3, and latest estimates on Faletau are that he could return to action some time next month.

Prop Smith and hooker Elliot Dee have also had injury issues, while Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy, who has been tipped for a squad recall, is currently sidelined due to a knee problem.

Four players who were part of Gatland’s World Cup squad will not be involved, with Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny having retired from Test rugby, Liam Williams now being based in Japan and Gareth Anscombe injured.

And centre Johnny Williams is facing a ban after he was sent off during the Scarlets’ Challenge Cup defeat against Clermont Auvergne.

Elsewhere, uncapped Cardiff trio Cam Winnett, Liam Belcher and Mackenzie Martin have their admirers, with selection speculation also having focused on back-row pair Rhys Ruddock and Cameron Hanekom.

Ruddock, son of former Wales head coach Mike Ruddock, won 27 caps for Ireland, but he has not represented them since mid-February 2021.

The 33-year-old, who has a Welsh-born father and grandparents, would qualify for Wales after their opening Six Nations games against Scotland and England.

World Rugby rules allow a player to switch countries as long as a minimum three years have elapsed since their last international appearance, and they are suitably qualified to represent any new nation.

Uncapped South African Hanekom, who is 12 years Ruddock’s junior, has a Welsh grandparent.

He has produced outstanding form for the Pretoria-based Bulls in the Investec Champions Cup and United Rugby Championship.

Asked about any link with Wales over the weekend, Bulls head coach Jake White said: “I’ve spoken to him about it. I think his grandmother is Welsh.

“He has been playing really well. He is a talent.

“At this point, I would think it is highly unlikely that he has had any contact (with Wales) because I think he would have told me.”

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