SIX NATIONS 2012: Warren Gatland hurt by injury pile-up

Gatland hurt by injury pile-up ahead of Ireland opener

Warren Gatland is facing an injury crisis before a ball has been kicked in this year's Six Nations Championship, with his star prop out and his fly-half a major doubt for Wales's opening match against Ireland.

Lions prop Gethin Jenkins will miss at least the first two matches of the tournament as he recovers from the knee injury he suffered during Cardiff Blues' Heineken Cup victory over Racing Metro on Sunday.

Injury blow: Jenkins will miss Wales' first two Six Nations games

Injury blow: Jenkins will miss Wales' first two Six Nations games

Of more immediate concern to Gatland is the fact Wales may also travel to Dublin next weekend without their first-choice fly-half Rhys Priestland (knee), flanker Dan Lydiate (ankle) and centre Jamie Roberts (knee).

The head coach flew in to London's Hurlingham Club yesterday on a day trip from Gdansk, where the squad are enduring one of their infamous Polish training camps.

Crisis: Gatland is without a number of key players

Crisis: Gatland is without a number of key players

When he sat down and read out the injury list it sounded like his nominations for player of the year. At the top of the list was Jenkins, who will be missed for his brain as much as his brawn.

'Gethin is a huge loss for us,' Gatland said. 'He's a world-class player. He's got a very good rugby brain and is able to assess things on the field. He's almost like a coach on the field. You get a lot of information from him at half-time, what's going right or wrong, tactically where we need to change.'

Next up were Priestland and Lydiate, two unexpected stars of the World Cup. The pair are officially '50-50' for the tournament opener.

'Rhys will be struggling for the first game,' he said. 'We're assessing him day by day. He has come out of nowhere and I think he was the best fly-half at the World Cup.

'He gives a great balance to that position, because he's got a good kicking game, he distributes well and he's not afraid to run, too. 'He really does fit the type of game we want to play.'

The prognosis on Roberts is more positive, with Gatland confirming the centre will resume full-contact training on Monday.

Priestland's injury opens up the chance for Perpignan playmaker James Hook to reclaim the No 10 shirt, and Gatland has even suggested giving wildcard Gavin Henson a go in the pivotal position.