Two-time British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton is out for the rest of the year after news that he will have to undergo surgery following the recurrence of a long-standing neck injury.
Cardiff Blues, who are preparing to host Glasgow Warriors at the Arms Park on Saturday night, said that former Wales skipper Warburton, who captained the Lions to their series draw in New Zealand this summer, faces up to four months out.
That means Warburton will miss Wales’ autumn Tests against Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Warburton, 28, had yet to make his first appearance of the season after a post-Lions break before returning to training, where he exacerbated a long-standing neck problem this week.
“It’s a major blow for all concerned, it’s a blow for Cardiff Blues and Wales. We all hoped he would be back playing soon,” said Warburton’s club coach Danny Wilson.
“It is a long-standing issue that he has had. He gets pain and discomfort on and off.
“The feeling was that two months off would help it settle completely and do him a world of good.
“He came back feeling confident about it. He went through the protocols when he came back to training, and during the contact element, just on pads, it began to flare up again.
“We looked into it in more detail, and it has led to where we are.”
Cardiff have lost their opening two Guinness Pro14 fixtures, at home to Edinburgh and away to Leinster, but Glasgow attack coach Jason O’Halloran is wary of talk about the 100 per cent Warriors being strong favourites in the Welsh capital this weekend.
“There’s quality amongst that group,” said the Kiwi. “There’s Ray Lee-Lo and a guy like Matthew Morgan is a real talent too. With these kind of guys if you don’t respect them they can make you look silly sometimes.
“I don’t know about favourites. I think they’ll be a very, very desperate side. We’ll probably be favourites in supporters’ eyes but we don’t want to get complacent, it is in games like this that, if you take your eye off the ball, you get knocked over. It is in front of their fans, who will be expecting a big effort after a couple of losses, and they’ll be desperate to deliver, so that will bring a massive amount of physicality.
“We need to match that and be a lot more accurate with our skills [than against Ospreys] so we can maintain the ball for longer periods and dictate the pace of the game. Ultimately we’ve got to have faith in our squad and also focus on our own performance.”
Head coach Dave Rennie will name his team for the match on Friday and O’Halloran was coy about speculating on any changes to the squad following opening wins away to Connacht and at home to Ospreys.
“I can’t give too much away to be honest,” he added.
“We just had to see how guys came through training today. It’s not my job to give too much away at this stage to be honest.
“Dave’s general philosophy, if you’ve followed him through the Chiefs, has been to rotate the squad and try and create competition for places.
“We’ve probably used 26 or 27 guys in the first couple of games and I’d imagine there would be another four of five newbies this time around. I think that’s great.”
Lions wing Tommy Seymour has had an extended rest period after his summer exploits but the attack coach admitted that he may be close to be being back involved this weekend.
“I think he is ready to go now if he needs to,” said O’Halloran.
“He’s enthusiastic and energetic. We gave him an extra week, ten days over and above the other guys. I think he’s pretty keen to have a run potentially.”