Wales full-back Liam Williams is facing a race against time to be ready for the 2023 Six Nations after being ruled out for up to four months with a collarbone injury.
The British & Irish Lion's debut for new club Cardiff turned out to be a day to forget and, following surgery, the 31-year-old will need to prove he's ready before the Six Nations, with the World remaining the long-term goal.
World Cup 2023
Friday 8th September - Saturday 28th October 2023
How to watch
France 5/2, New Zealand 3/1, England 5/1, Ireland 5/1, South Africa 11/2
Looking forward to a fresh start with his new club Cardiff, there was plenty of excitement on what Williams could bring to the backline in the capital.
A clash with Irish heavyweights Munster was to provide a great acid test for Cardiff and Williams on Saturday, but the debut was to be over for the full-back before the half-time whistle.
A tackle from Calvin Nash saw Williams stay on the ground and Cardiff boss Dai Young's fears were soon realised after the full-time whistle and a home win over Munster.
Williams has been forced to undergo surgery to resolve the serious injury to his collarbone and the marquee signing will miss a significant block of the season for Cardiff.
"Williams now faces a recovery period of 12-16 weeks on the sidelines following surgery," a statement on Cardiff's official website read.
The former Scarlets and Saracens star could miss as many as 11 fixtures in all competitions before a hopeful return at the start of 2023.
The injury means Williams will have to watch from the sidelines as Wales take to the field at the Principality Stadium four times in November.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac will see his side face a New Zealand side still looking for consistency in their opening game on 5th November.
After a shock home series defeat over three Tests to Ireland, New Zealand have gone on to lose to both South Africa on the road and Argentina on home soil in the Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks have not been the formidable force they once were and it might be a good opportunity for Welsh to get after the Kiwis in Cardiff.
Wales next host Argentina on 12th November, before facing an improving Georgia side a week later. The autumn internationals conclude for Wales with the arrival of Australia to Cardiff on 26th November.
While it's a blow to Pivac to lose a player of Williams' experience, it will offer perhaps Hallam Amos or Johnny McNicholl the chance to impress in the No.15 jersey.
Veteran full-back Leigh Halfpenny has himself been plagued by injury over recent years and if the Scarlets star can keep himself fit, he could line up against the All Blacks in front of a packed house at the Principality at the start of November.
Six Nations - Rugby Union: How the teams are shaping up a year out from the World Cup
Six Nations - Rugby Union: Team of the tournament
2023 Six Nations
England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales
Saturday 4th February - Saturday 18th March
How to watch
BBC, ITV & S4C
|Odds||France 11/8, Ireland 6/4, England 9/2, Wales 14/1, Scotland 16/1|
While Williams is hoping to be fit by January, it will leave him little time to prove his fitness ahead of the highly-anticipated 2023 Six Nations Championship.
The annual tournament has added spice in a World Cup year and that's exactly what we'll get for the competition this year.
With Wales in a transition phase after finishing fifth in the competition last year, the men in red are somewhat of an unknown quantity.
The previous season Wales defied the odds to win the Six Nations title, so to finish fifth the following year shows the Welsh are not progressing as they would have liked ahead of the World Cup in France next year.
Wales start their Six Nations campaign on 4th February with Ireland making the trip to Cardiff, before the Welsh travel north to face Scotland at Murrayfield.
Momentum is key in the Six Nations and the Welsh face two tricky opening encounters against the Irish and the Scots, before hosting England.
A trip to Rome on 11th March followed by a daunting journey a week later to Paris to face reigning champions France completes the schedule for Wales this season.
Wales are 14/1 to win the 2023 Six Nations, with World Cup hosts France the current favourites at 11/8 for the title.
Ireland are 6/4 to be crowned champions, while England are 9/2 and Scotland 16/1 to finish top of the pile for a first ever Six Nations title.
After losing at home to Italy on their last Six Nations outing, losing Williams to a lengthy injury seems like another blow to Wales and the pressure is on for Pivac to turn things around, although in Welsh rugby, pressure is never normally too far away.
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