THE Ospreys are optimistic Ian Evans will ease Rob Howley’s second-row injury concerns by making himself available for Wales’s Six Nations opener against Ireland on February 2.
And the Pro12 champions haven’t ruled out fellow casualties Ryan Jones and Richard Hibbard joining him on the starting grid for the championship.
But it is the positive bulletin on Evans that will most delight Howley in the wake of the lock crisis that has seen Wales’s top four engine-room operators laid low by bumps.
Evans, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris are all sidelined, forcing Howley to name three non-specialist locks in his second-row pool for the tournament.
But the picture is an improving one, with Ospreys assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys saying: “Ian should be ready for the first Six Nations game against Ireland.
“He has been up running. He’s just had a little setback in terms of there being a bit of discomfort, but we’ll be signing him over to Wales now and it’s up to them how they manage him.
“Hopefully he will be up to speed to start.
“It would be a huge ask (because he hasn’t played since the game against Samoa in November). But needs must. If they feel that he can do a job for them off that, then so be it.
“It’s unusual to have so many injuries in that one department.”
A medical update from the Ospreys on Monday suggested Jones would be ruled out for three to four weeks after suffering a dislocated thumb joint against Leicester last weekend. But he said yesterday: “The medical people said anything up to four weeks, but I’m still holding out hope of being fit for the Ireland game.”
Hibbard was also in the wars against the Tigers, injuring the shoulder he hurt playing against Samoa game last autumn.
But all isn’t lost on the player for the Ireland game, according to Humphreys.
“Hibbs is sore at the minute,” he said. “If we pushed him, we could get him through this week and he would play. But for his own safety we’ve decided to take that decision out of his hands. He will definitely be fit for Wales-Ireland.”