Wales centre Owen Watkin is set to miss part of the Six Nations at least after undergoing surgery on a torn knee cartilage.

Watkin, who featured in six of his country's seven games at the recent Rugby World Cup, was hurt in the Ospreys' home Champions Cup defeat to Racing 92 on December 7.

In a statement on Saturday, his club confirmed he is set to be out of action for up to eight weeks.

As such, he is on course to miss Wales' opening Six Nations fixtures against Italy and Ireland, on February 1 and 8 respectively, while he may also struggle to be ready for the clash with France on February 22.

The Ospreys also provided an update on Gareth Anscombe, who missed the World Cup after suffering a serious knee injury in a warm-up match against England in August.

"Gareth has undergone a second procedure to his right knee this week," read a statement.

"As a result of Gareth's progress plateauing in the last month, and in conjunction with Gareth and his specialist, it was decided that a secondary minor procedure would be in his best interest, with the aim to allow him to progress and accelerate his rehabilitation in the new year.

"Surgery went well and at this stage we're ruling nothing out with regard to a possible return towards the end of the season.

"However, we'll be in a better position to clarify a realistic prognosis in the new year when he goes back to see the specialist."

Johnny Sexton faces a battle to be fit for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland. 

The fly-half suffered a knee injury during Leinster's European Champions Cup victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens last weekend.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is unsure how long his captain will be sidelined but is hopeful he will be ready to face Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Andy Farrell's first game in charge on February 1.

"You would love if he was back [to play for Leinster before the Six Nations], but it's probably more realistic for Ireland," Cullen said.

"He's seeing somebody in the UK and he'll go back there just to get an update in a couple of weeks.

"He's working hard to try and get himself back as quickly as possible, but he won't be a million miles away [for the start of the Six Nations] hopefully."

Scott Fardy will skipper Leinster in the absence of Sexton in the return fixture against Northampton in Dublin on Saturday.

The Pro14 champions, runners-up in Europe's premier club competition last season, are top of Pool 1 with three wins out of three.

Wales have honoured their former coach Warren Gatland by naming an entrance to the Principality Stadium after him.

Gatland coached Wales for 12 years, ending his tenure following their Rugby World Cup campaign this year.

The defending Six Nations champions were beaten 19-16 by South Africa in the semi-finals, before going down to Gatland's native New Zealand in the third-place play-off.

Wayne Pivac has taken over from Gatland, who led Wales to four Six Nations triumphs and will now go up against his former team when he coaches a Barbarians side in Cardiff on Saturday.

Ahead of the match, the Welsh Rugby Union has confirmed the main entrance to the Principality Stadium has been re-named 'Gatland's Gate' in tribute to the 56-year-old.

"This building will always be a very special place for me," said Gatland, Wales' longest-serving coach, of the Principality Stadium.

"It evokes a host of wonderful memories and has been the location for some of my very best days in rugby. It embodies all the emotion that goes with winning big games, but also the hard work, dedication and passion of everyone involved at every stage from players to staff and to my own family and to the fans themselves.

"This a hugely unexpected honour and one that I am humbled by. I'd like to thank all the staff at the Union, the players, my fellow coaches and backroom staff and everyone throughout Welsh rugby for their passion, respect and belief over the last 12 years."

Bath will seek specialist help to aid Joe Cokanasiga's recovery after the England international returned from the Rugby World Cup with a knee injury.

The Premiership club released a statement on Friday that said Cokanasiga will be "unable to begin a competitive campaign for the club", with no scheduled time announced for the wing's return to action.

"In order to provide Joe the best possible management plan and rehabilitation process, Bath's medical department are enlisting the services of world-leading specialists to ensure expert opinion is considered to deliver an optimal pathway to recovery," the statement read.

"The club's priority is to maximise his chances to perform at the very highest level."

The 22-year-old has won nine caps for England and played once at the World Cup, scoring two tries in the 45-7 win over the United States.

As well as Cokanasiga, Bath will also send Zach Mercer to see a specialist to discover the extent of the knee issue he suffered during the European Champions Cup game against Ulster.

Henry Thomas, meanwhile, will miss the rest of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

"Joe is a phenomenal talent and a powerful athlete, and we must manage him very carefully in the coming months to allow for the issues he has come back from Japan with to begin to be resolved," Stuart Hooper, the club's director of rugby, said.

"We have no doubt that Henry, Zach and Joe can come back stronger and our performance department will support them in every possible way to ensure they have the best rehabilitation and return to performance."

Franco Smith will be at the Italy helm for the 2020 Six Nations as the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) continues its search for a permanent successor to Conor O'Shea.

Irishman O'Shea stepped down last week after over three years in the role, with Italy having failed to advance through a Rugby World Cup pool that included reigning champions New Zealand and eventual winners South Africa.

Wins over Namibia and Canada gave them some cause for cheer, although Italy were denied a meeting with the All Blacks – and therefore any shot at qualifying for the knockout stage – by the untimely arrival of Typhoon Hagibis. 

The FIR confirmed the make-up of the nation's coaching staff for the international window in February to March of next year, with former Springbok Smith leading a team that also includes Giampiero De Carli and Marius Goosen.

Smith, who was most recently with the Cheetahs in Super Rugby, will be out to avoid a fifth consecutive wooden spoon for Italy at the Six Nations.

A new coach is expected to be appointed by July 1.

Wales have suffered a further injury blow after prop Tomas Francis was ruled out for at least the start of the Six Nations due to shoulder surgery.

Francis hurt his shoulder while playing in the Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat against eventual champions South Africa.

Exeter Chiefs confirmed on Monday the 27-year-old will miss up to four months of action due to a "serious" problem.

That provides an additional selection headache to new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, with their Six Nations campaign to start on February 1 against Italy and their last match against Scotland taking place on March 14.

They are already without star centre Jonathan Davies for the entire tournament, with fly-half Rhys Patchell also a doubt.

As for Exeter, the Premiership club have signed Argentine Enrique Pieretto due to the injuries to Francis and fellow prop Greg Holmes.

Director of rugby Rob Baxter said: "After two or three scans it became clear that Tom needs an operation to repair the shoulder injury he picked up with Wales at the World Cup.

"It's not great news for us, but at least we know where we stand now."

Eddie Jones says there is a chance some of his England players will opt to miss the Six Nations in order to help Saracens avoid relegation.

Saracens confirmed on Monday they would not be appealing against the 35-point sanction and £5.36million fine they received for breaching the salary cap in each of the previous three seasons, leaving them well adrift at the bottom of the Premiership table.

Jones picked six Saracens players in his starting XV in the Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa, captain Owen Farrell joined by club colleagues Maro Itoje, Elliot Daly and Jamie George, plus brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola.

England head coach Jones, who had a spell as Sarries' director of rugby earlier in his career, is contemplating the possibility of being without some of those top names early next year.

He believes they may be tempted to help the three-time European champions dodge the drop, with the league season still taking place while England are in Six Nations action between February 2 and March 14.

"It could have a significant impact," Jones said to BBC Sport when asked about how Saracens' plight could impact the national team.

"It's something we need to weigh up and look at very carefully.

"Obviously there may be some dislocation between Saracens players and the rest of the clubs. That's a reality, so we may have to work to mend those relationships a bit harder.

"And there might be some Saracens players who feel like they've got to play for their club instead of their country, to make sure they don't go down. 

"So we'll weigh all those up as they come about."

Pushed on whether any knowledge of the situation could have weighed heavily on the minds of the Saracens players at the World Cup, Jones said: "It possibly could have - we don't know about that. 

"But I think the main thing is now what we do now going forward. We are going to have to work hard to make sure we get those relationships strong again."

The punishment for Saracens sees them drop to -22 points, 26 below 11th-placed Leicester Tigers.

England coach Eddie Jones does not want to see Japan introduced to the Six Nations at this stage but would be open to the Brave Blossoms playing Northern Hemisphere sides on bye-weeks.

Hosts Japan reached the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time this year, stunning both Ireland and Scotland in the process.

However, Jamie Joseph's side are not involved in annual international competitions either in Europe, with the Six Nations, or in the Southern Hemisphere, with the Rugby Championship.

Japanese club Sunwolves play in Super Rugby alongside teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, yet the Daily Mail reported the Brave Blossoms could be set for a Six Nations invite.

Jones, who led England to the World Cup final, previously coached Japan and wants to see the team develop. However, he believes the international season is long enough already for now.

"I think 10 internationals a year in the Northern Hemisphere is about right," Jones told BBC Sport. "To increase the Six Nations would mean taking away from somewhere else.

"I'd bring Japan in for bye-weeks, so they'd play two games over the next three of four years to prove they are strong enough to compete consistently."

While Japan are still relative newbies at the highest level, Jones believes their World Cup performance can be a lesson to Scotland, who disappointed in missing out on the last eight.

"Gregor [Townsend] has got them back playing how a Scotland side should play," he said. "[Being small] makes it difficult, but you can have one-off success like Japan have had.

"You've got to pool all your resources into being the best 'small' team in the world. That means you look at everything you do, at how you can win ball quickly - particularly from set-pieces.

"You look at how you can win the ball quickly from the breakdown and you need a consistent programme for four years to be at your best to do that.

"You have to play quick, you have to have a varied attack and it takes a lot of cohesion to play that way."

Conor O'Shea says he "loved every minute" of being Italy head coach after deciding to step away from the role.

The Irishman had a contract through to May 2020 but has opted to resign with immediate effect.

O'Shea, a former London Irish and Harlequins coach, took over the Azzurri in March 2016, but Italy failed to make it out of the group stages of the recent Rugby World Cup.

"I loved every minute I spent in Italy and I really believe in what we have done and how it can be achieved in the years to come," O'Shea, who has been tipped to take up a position with the English Rugby Football Union, said via a statement on the Italian Rugby Federation's official website.

"We have started a process and generated a new, well-founded hope, but I also believe that the end of the Rugby World Cup represents the best time for everyone to make changes in view of the new cycle.

"I built friendships and made experiences that I will never forget. I sincerely hope to have left Italian rugby in a better position."

O'Shea's last match was the World Cup clash with South Africa, which ended in a 49-3 defeat to the eventual champions.

Italy needed to produce an unlikely victory over New Zealand in their final pool match in order to qualify – a fixture abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has been added to his national side's coaching team by new head coach Wayne Pivac.

Warburton, who announced his injury-enforced retirement at the age of 29 last July, will serve as a technical advisor for the breakdown and defence on a campaign-to-campaign basis.

His appointment was confirmed on Friday, along with that of Byron Hayward, who will return to the WRU as defence coach.

"I'm delighted to be part of the senior national coaching team," said Warburton, who also skippered the British and Irish Lions during his illustrious playing career, in a WRU statement.

"It is a genuine privilege to be considered for such a role and I can't wait to do my upmost [sic] to contribute to help improve the team and players. With such a great group of players and management it is an amazing opportunity which I am very proud to be given."

Pivac has succeeded Warren Gatland following the New Zealander's 12-year stint as head coach and now has five former Wales internationals in his backroom team, with Warburton and Hayward joining Stephen Jones, Jonathan Humphreys and Neil Jenkins.

"I'm delighted to bring both Byron and Sam into the set-up and add to what is already a vastly experienced coaching team," said Pivac.

"Sam is one of the most experienced leaders in rugby with excellent knowledge and communication skills and having only recently retired he has a full grasp on the international game.

"We looked at the coaching structure and the roles of each coach and believed adding a second defensive role into the team adds value, adds a point of difference and allows a specialist to work in the contact area. I believe Byron and Sam will complement each other in the roles."

Wales' first game under Pivac is on November 30, when they will take on a Barbarians side coached by Gatland in Cardiff.

Guilhem Guirado will miss the Six Nations after the France captain was ruled out for five months with a ruptured bicep.

Guirado suffered the injury just before the hour-mark on his Montpellier debut in a 19-19 Top 14 draw against his former club Toulon at Stade Mayol on Saturday.

Montpellier revealed on Tuesday that the hooker is to undergo surgery and will not be available until April.

The 33-year-old will play no part in Les Bleus' Six Nations campaign under Fabien Galthie, who replaced Jacques Brunel after the Rugby World Cup.

Montpellier have also lost wing Jim Nagusa for 10 weeks due to a knee injury.

Two-time Top 14 champions Montpellier travel to Connacht for their first European Champions Cup Pool 5 fixture on Sunday.

Wales will be without centre Jonathan Davies for the 2020 Six Nations after he was ruled out for at least six months due to impending knee surgery.

Davies, 31, sustained the injury during a pool game against Fiji at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

He missed the quarter-final against France but returned for the semi-final against eventual winners South Africa, while he also played in the bronze medal match against New Zealand.

The timetable for Davies' recovery means the Six Nations, which begins for Wales with a home fixture against Italy on February 1 and runs until March 14, will come too soon for him in his recovery.

 

Also set for a spell on the sidelines following Wales' return from the tournament in Japan is fly-half Rhys Patchell. Davies' Scarlets team-mate will miss between 12 and 16 weeks due to shoulder surgery.

Wales are defending Six Nations champions having achieved the Grand Slam in the 2019 tournament.

They will be under the leadership of Wayne Pivac following the departure of Warren Gatland, who spent 12 years at the helm.

Jonathan Davies' knee injury sustained at the Rugby World Cup will rule him out of Wales' 2020 Six Nations campaign. 

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