Lions Josh Adams and Josh Navidi look set to play just one game for Cardiff before Wales’ opening autumn international against New Zealand.
The Arms Park pair are currently on a break following the tour of South Africa.
They will return to training in a couple of weeks’ time, but will then have to go through a month or so of pre-season training.
So they seem unlikely to be back playing until the fourth round of the United Rugby Championship on October 16, when Cardiff entertain South African newcomers the Sharks.
Then they will go into camp with Wales to prepare for the autumn Tests against the All Blacks, South Africa, Fiji and Australia, missing the October 23 derby against the Dragons at the Arms Park, along with the rest of the national squad members from those two regions.
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On top of that, if they – and any other front-liners – are involved against the Wallabies, they won’t be able to travel out to South Africa with the rest of the Cardiff squad for the back-to-back URC games away to the Lions and the Stormers.
Director of rugby Dai Young has been outlining the schedule facing winger Adams and back rower Navidi.
“The earliest they would be back is the third URC game, but more likely the fourth one,” he said.
“The likelihood then is they won’t be available for the fifth game (against the Dragons) anyway because they will be preparing for New Zealand.
“At best, they are going to play two games, probably realistically one.
“But that’s part and parcel of it. That’s where we are.
“Josh Navidi may be a little bit different because he didn’t play in the Lions Tests.
“But the agreement is they have got to have the rest periods and they have got to have a sufficient pre-season to make sure they are bullet proof and not going to get injured.”
Young is set to be without 10 or more leading players for the derby against the Dragons, with the likes of Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Willis Halaholo, Hallam Amos, Dillon Lewis, Owen Lane, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Turnbull, Rhys Carre and Shane Lewis-Hughes all strong squad contenders, along with Navidi and Adams.
In turn, the Dragons are likely to be deprived of the services of Ross Moriarty, Aaron Wainwright, Elliot Dee, Will Rowlands, Leon Brown and Jonah Holmes, plus maybe Ben Carter and Taine Basham.
Giving his views on this situation, Young said: “Everybody would want to see these derbies played with full squads.
“I would be a liar not to say that in an ideal world we would want both teams at full strength.
“But whatever way it turns out, we will have a team out there representing Cardiff which we feel can do the job on the day.”
Young is also faced with the prospect of being without some Wales stars for Cardiff’s two-match trip to South Africa in late November and early December.
“I think it’s fair to say if they play in the Australia game (Nov 20), they are not likely to feature in our first match in Johannesburg,” he said.
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“We would probably go on the Sunday, so if they play on the Saturday it would be a big ask to chuck them on the plane the next day.
“That doesn’t mean they can’t come out for the second game (against the Stormers).
“But normally, if they play in the last autumn Test, they probably get a week off.
“They will need some rest or down time.
“It could be a case that if some of the Wales boys don’t play in the last game, they could come out with us. These are discussions to be had with Wayne.”
There is also the question of South Africa currently being on the UK’s red travel list, meaning people arriving here from that country have to isolate for 10 days.
As things stand, that raises a major issue as Cardiff are due to open their Champions Cup campaign the week after their second match against the Stormers in Cape Town.
“We couldn’t quarantine for 10 days when we get back because we wouldn’t be able to fulfil the European game,” said Young.
“So if it was tomorrow, with that set of rules, we wouldn’t be going, would we?
“Obviously, with Covid things are changing daily and that’s a couple of months down the line.
“I am sure nearer the time we will take a decision.
“We are all hoping to go because we are all excited about it and if it’s safe and viable to go there, we would go there.
“If the advice was we were putting ourselves at risk, the club would be the first to say it’s not for us.”
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that Cardiff will be without flanker James Botham until November following shoulder surgery.
With fellow openside Justin Tipuric out until Christmas and Josh Macleod also sidelined, that will raise much debate over the contenders to wear the Wales No 7 jersey in the autumn Tests.
Ellis Jenkins could well emerge as a strong candidate if fit, so it’s good to hear he will be in pre-season friendly action for Cardiff on Saturday afternoon against Harlequins at The Stoop.
After more than two years out with a catastrophic knee injury, Jenkins made an impressive return in February, only for his campaign to be cut short after four games because of a niggle to his other knee.
But now he’s back to fitness again and raring to go.
“He got a couple of games under his belt last season and showed he has still got the qualities which everyone recognises,” said Young.
“He then took a bit of a step back, but he’s hopefully going to come back fitter and stronger this season.
“He has had a good pre-season, he’s not missed a session.
“He has been at the front in most of the fitness tests. We have bullet-proofed him as much as we can by putting him in situations which would identify problems if he had one, which it hasn’t.
“So he’s come through and done as much as he can. Now it’s just over to playing games.
“That pre-season has really given him the springboard to kick on, so hopefully he can hit the ground running.
“He knows the job at hand is to be a regular in the Cardiff back row because there are quality players to pick from here.
“The important thing is not to put too much pressure on Ellis and just leave him play and see where he goes from there.”
Young hopes to have some of his Wales summer squad members available for next week’s friendly at home to Bath, with all of them then available for the first URC game against Connacht on September 24.
On his ambitions for the season, he said: “We haven’t been higher than seventh in ten years, which is not good enough.
“We know this league is going to be tougher again with the South Africans coming on board, but we’ve got to be striving to improve and pushing the standards.”
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