Defending Six Nations champions Wales received an early blow as Scarlets duo Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell will both be out with long-term injuries.

Davies, who played a big role in helping Wales reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, will miss the entirety of the Six Nations after undergoing surgery for the knee injury he picked up in the pool stages in Japan.

The 31-year-old centre took a knock to his knee against Fiji and sat out the quarter-final win over France, but returned for the semi-finals and third-place playoff, playing with a heavily strapped leg. Davies will be out of action for at least six months while he recovers.

Meanwhile, Patchell is expected to miss at least three months with a shoulder injury. The flyhalf is also facing surgery and could leave Wales with a potential issue at flyhalf. Gareth Anscombe will miss the Six Nations with the injury that prevented his involvement in the World Cup, meaning that Dan Biggar could be the only senior halfback fit for selection next year.

The loss of the duo comes as a fresh blow for incoming coach Wayne Pivac, who replaced Warren Gatland after the World Cup. Pivac will have to consider his options to replace two of his senior players in the backline. Potential Six Nations replacements include Owen Watkin and Scott Williams, as well as Bath centre Jamie Roberts. Cardiff Blues midfielder Willis Halaholo, who was born in New Zealand, will also be eligible for selection.

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