Wales down to the bare bones with Reed the last lock standing

Howley may name Ospreys youngsters King and Peers in today's squad after crippling injury list all but wipes out his second row

Lou Reed will be on Rob Howley's playlist when he announces his squad tomorrow for the opening match of Wales's defence of their Six Nations crown but it will be a painfully imperfect one chosen by the interim coach with the focus likely to be on those absent from the fixture against Ireland two weeks on Saturday.

Reed, the 6ft 6in Cardiff Blue, is the only lock still standing from Wales's disastrous autumn campaign as Howley contemplates having to mind more gaps than London Underground. It is in the second row in particular that Howley has some creative thinking to do as another gruelling weekend added Ryan Jones, once captain of Wales, to a crippling injury list.

Jones dislocated a thumb against Leicester and joins Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies and Ian Evans on the sidelines. All but the latter have no chance of playing against Ireland and it leaves Howley having to decide whether to hurl the untested young Ospreys James King and Lloyd Peers in at the deep end alongside Reed, who only made his first start against Australia in December (because of injury of course), or make a temporary return to the grizzled dependability of Ian Gough, playing well for the Ospreys this season, three years after the 36-year-old won the last of his 64 caps. Aaron Shingler, another possible stopgap option, is also a significant injury doubt.

Second row is the height of Howley's problems as Wales limp towards the start of a campaign that will begin in stark contrast to a year ago when Warren Gatland's side followed their uplifting World Cup performance by beating Ireland in Dublin in their opening Six Nations match to take a first step towards a third Grand Slam in eight years.

With Gatland absent, Howley has overseen seven straight defeats since France were beaten to claim the Slam, all the time accompanied by an expanding injury list. He also has issues over who will wear the No 2 and No 10 shirts against Ireland. Optimism is in almost as short supply as locks, and that is before even considering the domestic issues bedevilling the Welsh game.

King and Peers, both uncapped, have impressed for the Ospreys this season with the 22-year-old King's versatility – he can also play in the back row – likely to earn him a place in Howley's squad. Evans should be fit to return at some point in the Six Nations. It had been hoped that he may be ready for Ireland but Steve Tandy, Ospreys head coach, has sought to dampen any such expectations. He said: "Ian probably won't come back next week against Treviso [in the Heineken Cup]. I know Wales are decimated, but we will just have to review his situation as we go along."

Another of Tandy's domestic charges, Richard Hibbard, is also unlikely to face Ireland. The hooker is regarded as the form player at No 2 but a long-term shoulder problem that kept him out of the autumn defeats against New Zealand and Australia arose once again on Sunday when he was taken off against Leicester. It leaves the Scarlets pair of Matthew Rees and Ken Owens to contest the shirt.

"We have been patching [Hibbard] up since he hurt the same shoulder playing for Wales against Samoa in November, if I am honest," said Tandy. "The way he goes about his business and turns up every week is just a ridiculous effort from the boy."

With Rhys Priestland missing the entire tournament, Dan Biggar, who himself filled a place on the injury list during the autumn series, has been earmarked as his replacement at 10. Biggar has yet to play in the Six Nations but with James Hook still to make his return from a chest injury – he hopes do to so for Perpignan in the Amlin Cup this weekend – the 23-year-old seems set to start against Ireland.

Dan Lydiate, outstanding in last year's Six Nations, is another key name who will be absent from Howley's list today although he should be ready to play later in the tournament. Howley can include Jamie Roberts, who is fit again after an injury-plagued season, and Adam Jones, who was sorely missed in the front row in the autumn. George North is expected to have recovered from the neck injury he suffered against Ulster on Friday.

Walking wounded: Howley's injury list


Alun Wyn Jones, >Shoulder injury, out until March

Luke Charteris, Out for season, knee ligament

Bradley Davies, Having ankle operation this week

Ian Evans, Close to return after knee injury

Ryan Jones, Dislocated thumb against Leicester on Sunday

Richard Hibbard, Shoulder injury, against Leicester

Aaron Jarvis, Out for season, knee ligament

Huw Bennett, Achilles surgery in summer

Dan Lydiate, Broke ankle in September – hopeful of making part of Six Nations

Aaron Shingler, Close to return after groin injury


Rhys Priestland, Out for the season, Achilles tendon

Ashley Beck, Ankle ligament, will miss two games

James Hook, Chest injury, two more weeks out

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home