IAN Evans faces a race to be fit for the start of the Six Nations after being ruled out for up to eight weeks with the knee injury he sustained during Wales's autumn series.
The 25-cap lock will miss the remainder of the Ospreys' pool matches in this term's Heineken Cup after undergoing keyhole surgery.
And the clock is ticking for him to make Wales's Six Nations opener against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on February 2 — eight weeks tomorrow.
Ospreys head physio Chris Towers said: "Ian has been troubled by an ongoing problem with his right knee since being unable to complete the Samoa game last month.
"Investigations and consultations with specialists have resulted in him undergoing a keyhole procedure, as a result of which he will be sidelined for six to eight weeks."
It is hardly news Rob Howley would have wanted to hear as he looks ahead to the championship, with Alun Wyn Jones also poised to miss the opening games, in his case because of a shoulder injury.
The Ospreys are likely to pair Ian Gough and James King at lock in their Heineken Cup match in Toulouse tomorrow, while former All Black tight-head Campbell Johnstone is set for his regional debut, just four days after meeting players at the Liberty for the first time.
Johnstone has been drafted in because of injuries to Adam Jones, Aaron Jarvis and Joe Rees.
"It's been an interesting few days," said the New Zealander.
"I'm pretty excited about everything, a little nervous if I'm honest. It's a big game for the Ospreys on Saturday and a big one for me personally, coming in at a few days' notice.
"There's been a bit of bad luck here with tight-heads — I hope it doesn't continue. It's important for the team that the guys come back from injury quickly so the team can get back up to full strength quickly. In the meantime I'll do what I can to fill that gap as best I can."
Johnstone, who spent four years at Biarritz before leaving last summer, acknowledged his call from the Ospreys had come out of the blue.
"I was enjoying a bit of quality time in Spain when the opportunity came up," he said. "It was a bit of a shock, I never expected to be rolling up in Toulouse with the Ospreys for such a big match. I'm looking forward to it.
"You could say it's a big game to be thrown into, but we'll see how it goes."