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Six Nations: Welsh injury crisis ahead of Cardiff showdown

Wales last night played down the extent of an alarming-looking injury list prior to their RBS Six Nations clash against fellow title contenders Ireland.

Captain Matthew Rees and talisman back James Hook are among the players Wales say have been “managing issues around training” ahead of Saturday's Millennium Stadium Test match.

Experienced Ospreys hooker Huw Bennett has been called into the squad as cover for Richard Hibbard (shoulder), while starting hooker Rees has a hamstring injury.

Elsewhere, Hook and number eight Ryan Jones both have calf muscle problems, with wing Morgan Stoddart (shoulder) and back-row forward Jonathan Thomas (dead leg) also being monitored.

“Both Matthew and Morgan have responded well to extensive treatment since picking up their injuries against Italy,” said Wales national performance medical manager Prav Mathema.

“Matthew has a slight hamstring problem, and Morgan sustained an injury to his shoulder during that match.

“But the medical staff have managed both players very well, and we expect both to be available for Ireland.

“Richard has a shoulder problem sustained during his outing for the Ospreys this weekend and he needs rest at the moment.

“Jonathan also picked up his injury at the weekend, and we will further assess him towards the end of this week.”

Injuries permitting, it is anticipated Wales coach Warren Gatland will make minimal changes for the Ireland game after away wins against Scotland and Italy.

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards, meanwhile, accepts that Wales face “a big ask” defensively when try-hungry Ireland arrive in Cardiff.

He said: “Ireland were red-hot in the first-half against Scotland, and they also scored three tries against France. It will be a big ask for us defensively, but we feel we are up to the challenge.”

Edwards also expects the vastly-experienced Ronan O'Gara to keep Ireland's number 10 shirt following his impressive display after being preferred to Jonathan Sexton against Scotland.

“I expect O'Gara to start after the way he played against Scotland.”

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