by Ethan Harris
WARREN Gatland will look to dig deep into his reserves for the national side come February, as Wales have to replace several key figures ahead of the Six Nations.
Gatland will be without influential captain Sam Warburton for the entire championship, after the 29-year-old flanker was side-lined before the Autumn Internationals due to neck surgery.
No.8 Taulupe Faletau is also missing after the Bath back-row suffered a knee-injury in a PRO14 match-up against Toulon. He needs surgery and will miss 12-16 weeks of action.
Wales are facing something of an injury crisis it seems before the tournament, as other notable absentees include Jonathan Davies, Dan Lydiate, Jake Ball and Hallam Amos.
George North is also a doubt for the opening game against Scotland on February 3, but he should be fit for action for the rest of the campaign.
Despite heavy losses to established stars, Liam Williams returns as the Saracens wing has shaken off a groin injury sustained against Georgia whilst on Wales duty in November.
A key member of the Welsh back-line, Williams will give the national side an added dose of flair and look to break the gain line at any opportunity, especially when returning the ball from a kicked clearance, something he has become well known for throughout his career.
Ross Moriarty has also returned to action, and the British and Irish Lion will provide some much-needed cover at the flanker position if called up, but will need to prove his match fitness in time for the championships if he stands any chance of being admitted to the 36-man squad on Tuesday.
Scarlets Prop Samson Lee also returns after recovering from an Achilles injury, he will provide reliability within the set piece, and gives Wales some strength in defence that will allow for plenty of turnover opportunities.