Six Nations 2017: Luke Charteris out and Faletau unlikely for Wales in Rome

Luke Charteris
Luke Charteris, 33, won the first of his 71 Wales caps against South Africa in 2004
Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Date: Sunday, 5 February Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Wales lock Luke Charteris is out of their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Sunday as Bath team-mate Taulupe Faletau awaits a fitness test.

Faletau has been battling with a knee injury while Charteris has a fractured bone in his hand.

However, forwards coach Robin McBryde said both players are likely to be fit when Wales host England on Saturday, 11 February.

Coach Rob Howley will name his starting squad for the tournament on Thursday.

Wales in the 2017 Six Nations
Sunday, 5 February, 14:00 GMT, Stadio Olimpico: Italy v Wales
Saturday, 11 February, 16:50 GMT, Principality Stadium: Wales v England
Saturday, 25 February, 14:25 GMT, Murrayfield: Scotland v Wales
Friday, 10 March, 20:05 GMT, Principality Stadium: Wales v Ireland
Saturday, 18 March, 14:45 GMT, Stade d France: France v Wales

McBryde said: "Luke Charteris has picked up a slight fracture in his hand so he's been ruled out of this weekend, but hopefully he'll be fit for the following week."

Scarlets' Jake Ball, Newport Gwent Dragons' Cory Hill and Ospreys' James King and uncapped Rory Thornton are in contention to partner captain Alun Wyn Jones at lock against the Azzurri.

Faletau's fitness test will take place on Wednesday with Gloucester's Ross Moriarty a stronger contender to start in the middle of the back-row if the ex-Newport Gwent Dragon is ruled out.

McBryde was asked if 26-year-old Faletau was in contention to play in Rome.

He replied: "For this week? No, I think it will be too early this week."

'Five locks asking questions of each other'

McBryde believes the competition for second and back-row places is strong even with Charteris out and his expectation that Faletau will not go to Rome.

"Jake Ball was bitterly disappointed after the autumn with the injuries and illnesses etc," said McBryde.

"But he's gone back to the club and worked on his game and he's put in some telling performances for the Scarlets.

"And it's the same with Cory Hill and Rory Thornton - there's five [locks] there who are asking questions of each other."

If Faletau fails to come through his fitness test, McBryde says Wales have plenty of back-row options.

As well as Moriarty and the highly-experienced open-side flankers Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, uncapped duo Tom Young and Ollie Cracknell are making an impression in training, he said.

"Olly and Thomas are new faces in the back row and it keeps everybody on their toes," he added.

"We're in a healthy place at the moment whoever gets the nod I'm sure they'll perform on the day."

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