Wales have been dealt a blow after they confirmed that experienced hooker Ken Owens will miss the remainder of their Autumn Nations Series campaign.
Currently out with a back injury, the British & Irish Lions forward sat out Saturday’s 23-18 loss to South Africa, and has now had to pull out from the squad.
He was named in Wayne Pivac’s initial team for the 54-16 New Zealand defeat in October, but was forced out shortly after his selection had been confirmed.
Misses Fiji and Australia games
And now the 34-year-old will miss the Cardiff encounters with both Fiji and Australia to boot.
“Ken Owens has been released from the national squad due to a back injury which will prevent him from taking any part in the Autumn Nations Series,” read a Welsh Rugby Union statement.
Ryan Elias started Wales’ slender loss to the Springboks, with Ulster’s Bradley Roberts coming off the bench for his Test debut in the closing stages.
Wales coach Pivac believes his side made big strides in running South Africa close, and will now doubtless be eyeing two wins, starting with Fiji on Saturday.
“We could have won that match, it came down to a couple of moments,” said Pivac.
“We’ve a bit of work to do at the scrum but we matched them across the park and led for periods.
“It is a big step in the right direction, playing the world champions at their own game.
“I thought it was a big pat on the back for their effort.”
Ireland wing James Lowe is looking forward to facing off with some of his closest friends as he prepares to take on his native New Zealand for the first time.
Lowe enjoyed a positive international comeback on Saturday as he claimed the first try for Ireland in their Autumn Nations Series win over Japan in Dublin.
The 29-year-old, who qualified for Ireland last year through residency rules, played alongside several the current All Blacks in his homeland for the Chiefs.
And, with the world’s top-ranked team due at the Aviva Stadium this week, he’s swiftly turned his focus to a special occasion from a personal perspective.