Ken Owens: Scarlets and Wales hooker hopes for Christmas return
Scarlets and Wales hooker Ken Owens hopes to return to action in time for the Pro12 derby against Ospreys on 27 December after recovering from injury.
Owens, 27, had surgery after injuring a disc in his neck in September.
The Scarlets skipper, capped 26 times by his country, returned to training this week and is hoping to be back for the festive fixture.
"Hopefully in the next two to three weeks I'll be back on the field with a bit of luck," he said.
Owens took over from the injured Richard Hibbard on Wales' two-Test series against South Africa in June.
However, he missed the entire November international series following his injury, with Hibbard and Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin selected.
"It's great to have that competition and strength in depth because that's the only way Welsh rugby is going to improve and get better," he said.
"Especially going into World Cup year, the more players that are performing, the better."
Meanwhile, Owens says he has not been "contacted recently" about a possible national dual contract.
"There's obviously different reasons for that," he said. "I've got to get back on the field and prove my fitness.
"So hopefully it will get sorted and I'm sure some boys are in discussions and it'll be sorted soon enough."
Should he return against Ospreys, Owens could face Dan Lydiate, who on Tuesday became the second Welsh player to sign a dual deal.
"It's a massive positive for the Ospreys and Welsh rugby having such a world-class flanker coming back to Wales," said Owens.
"Obviously it's a huge negative from a Scarlets point of view because of what he offers as a player and a leader. He's one of the best in the world."
Owens added it was "good to see" Lydiate back, but joked: "I'd like to think he could have a couple of extra weeks off over Christmas though."