The full toll of Wales’ World Cup effort is only just becoming apparent with Exeter Chiefs prop Tomas Francis being the latest big name to go under the knife.
The tight-head specialist has been ruled out for up to four months because of his dislocated shoulder as he joins Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell in re-hab and out of the Six Nations.
“After two or three scans it became clear that Tom needs an operation to repair the shoulder injury he picked up with Wales at the World Cup. It’s not great news for us, but at least we know where we stand now,” said Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter.
Add in Josh Navidi, George North and Cory Hill, who hasn’t played since before the tournament because of a training fracture, and the squad that Wayne Pivac is about to inherit has a look of Emergency Ward 10.
Gareth Anscombe was also ruled out for the majority of the season from the opening World Cup warm-up match to add further concern.
The front row was always an area of concern for Warren Gatland in terms of strength in depth and his successor will now have to go back to his former Scarlets props Rob Evans and Samson Lee to find some stability.
As regards the tight head position, Pivac has already been on a scouting mission to Manchester to rule the rule over sale Sharks’ highly rated Will Griff John. He was also at Rodney Parade last weekend watching the Dragons’ Leon Brown.
Former Scarlets coach Pivac will take the helm with Wales against the Barbarians – who will have Gatland in their corner – at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on November 30.
— Chris Fairweather 🇪🇺 (@c_fairweather) November 16, 2019
Wales and Scarlets flanker James Davies is backing his old regional coach to make an immediate impact.
“Warren has given Wayne a good platform and Wayne is an amazing coach,” said flanker Davies, who played under Pivac at the Scarlets and helped them to win the 2017 Guinness PRO12 title.
“I’m sure he’ll have a different style of play perhaps, but he’ll want the attitude that the players have shown to carry through.
“That’s probably the hardest thing for a coach to get out of players sometimes.
“Wayne’s a brilliant man manager. He’s been fantastic with us at the Scarlets and I think he will bring a style of play that will excite the fans and hopefully the players.
“I’ve loved playing under him at the Scarlets with the open style of play. When you get it right, it’s hard to stop.
“Hopefully the players who get selected can implement that style of play.”
On the legacy Gatland has left behind – which includes three Six Nations Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-finals – Davies added: “If you have an identity then it’s pretty special for any team.
“I just think he’s added a grit, perhaps, and a winning mentality. That’s what sport is all about.
“He has instilled that in most of the players he has coached so in fairness to him, he’s done one hell of a job.”
Davies, 29, made two starts and one appearance off the bench at the World Cup and now has eight Test caps to his name.