Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin looks set for a Wales squad recall more than five years after his last Test match appearance.
The 34-year-old former Harlequins and Worcester forward is on stand-by replace his Ospreys colleague Dewi Lake.
Lake suffered a knee injury during Ospreys’ thrilling Heineken Champions Cup victory over Leicester on Friday.
And while Wales head coach Warren Gatland is awaiting a full update, it seems likely that Lake will miss at least the start of this season’s Guinness Six Nations Championship, which Wales kick off against Ireland on February 4.
Compounding Wales’ hooking position problems is an injury to Ryan Elias, and Baldwin now appears on course to join Ken Owens and Bradley Roberts in the squad.
Baldwin won the last of his 34 caps against Samoa in 2017.
“Dewi is probably going to be (out) injured. We are just waiting on an update, but it does not look good,” said Gatland, speaking at the Six Nations launch in London.
“If he is ruled out, we will bring in Scott Baldwin.
“It’s disappointing for Dewi. But if you are are going to get an injury it is probably the best time to get it now.
“Hopefully, then he recovers in time to potentially be selected later on in the year.”
Gatland is at the Wales helm for a second time, with his previous reign between 2008 and 2019 highlighted by four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances.
He has appointed three newcomers to his coaching staff in Alex King, Mike Forshaw and Jonathan Thomas, with Ireland’s Cardiff visit being followed by Scotland at Murrayfield a week later, and then England at home on February 25.
Gatland added: “The key is keeping things simple.
“We have got a short amount of preparation, so it is making sure we start on the basics, we are all consistent as coaches and there is clarity within the squad in terms of knowing our roles and everything.
“There have been some excellent performances in the last three years. Wales won the Six Nations in 2021 and beat South Africa away from home for the first time.
“I think what they will be disappointed with is that they have probably been a bit inconsistent in terms of performances and results.
“We are going to be really positive in the way we play, but we have got to be smart as well.
“I think the Six Nations is the best tournament in the world, from an historical point of view, and for us it is when points are at stake. It is incredibly important.”
And skipper Owens said: “They (Ireland) are ranked number one in the world for a reason. It is a huge challenge.
“We have got a decent record against them at the Principality Stadium, and it’s exciting. There is plenty of experience in the squad, and a huge opportunity for the younger players.”