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Wales blow as James Botham misses opening months of season to add to Wayne Pivac’s openside selection dilemma

Cardiff flanker James Botham will miss the opening months of the season, ruling him out of contention for Wales’ autumn squad.

The nine-times capped openside is currently sidelined after undergoing shoulder surgery over the summer.

He is now four weeks post-op and targeting a return to action in November.

But Wales play their first autumn Test against New Zealand on October 30, with the squad for their four-match series to be named a week or so before that.

So Botham will realistically be out of the reckoning for selection.

That’s a blow for head coach Wayne Pivac as he clearly thinks highly of the 23-year-old.

He gave him his Test debut last November, starting him in three Nations Cup matches, utilising him both at 7 and 6.

Botham came on as a replacement in three games during the Six Nations title-winning campaign and then started all three summer internationals against Canada and Argentina on the openside.

His injury setback adds to the issues Wales have in terms of who will wear the No 7 jersey this autumn, when the All Blacks, Australia, South Africa and Fiji all come to Cardiff.

The vastly experienced Justin Tipuric will miss the entire campaign due to the shoulder damage which ruled him out of the Lions tour.

Fellow openside Josh Macloed is also sidelined as he recovers from the ruptured Achilles that denied him his first cap during the Six Nations, while Wasps’ Thomas Young is ineligible under the WRU 60-cap rule.

That leaves the versatile Josh Navidi as the probable front-runner to occupy the openside berth, with Cardiff colleague Ellis Jenkins another option, along with Taine Basham, Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell and Ollie Griffiths.

Navidi will return to training in two weeks time, along with Arms Park team-mate Josh Adams following their post-Lions tour break.

Cardiff centre Ben Thomas, who made his Wales debut this summer, has a groin injury, but should return during the opening rounds of the new season.

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