Wales head coach Wayne Pivac says he is very confident that Gareth Anscombe will return to top-flight rugby following a prolonged injury battle.
Anscombe has not played since suffering knee ligament damage during Wales’ World Cup warm-up game against England at Twickenham 14 months ago.
Pivac has revealed that the 29-year-old faces a further lengthy spell on the sidelines as he continues fighting back to fitness.
But the Wales boss is also positive about fly-half Anscombe, who played a starring role in Wales’ 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam success, and his long-term prospects.
“He’s had a little tidy-up since the original surgery, which has just set him back a little bit,” Pivac said.
“But he is working really, really hard, and we are not going to rush him back. It’s not worth rushing him back for the sake of maybe a tour or part of a season.
“At this stage, we are not putting any pressure on the player. We are saying ‘let’s give it the season to get it right’.
“Now, if he came right within that time-frame then that’s all the better, but there is no expectation on him to rush back for this season.
“I am very confident he will get back. He has got leaders within our game and industry looking after him, and they are saying he’s got every chance of getting back to where he was.
“He is determined to get back on the playing field as soon as he can.”
Anscombe has missed Wales’ last 15 Tests, and he is also unavailable for six more this autumn and then potentially the whole 2021 Six Nations Championship.
Wales’ 2021 Six Nations opener is against Ireland on February 7, with no immediate sign of crowds returning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The remaining fixtures in the delayed 2020 tournament are to be played later this month and followed by the Autumn Nations Cup with all games set to take place behind closed doors.
And Pivac added: “Who knows when the next Six Nations will be played? There is talk that it may be pushed out slightly, with the current climate around what this virus might be doing.
“So, I think there are going to be discussions that are ongoing, and that’s the smart thing to be doing.
“Obviously, we are in a position now with no crowds – or very little crowds – and most unions will be in the same boat.
“They will be desperate not only for the tournament to go ahead, but also to make sure that there are crowds in the future so that we can meet our financial obligations to the game.
“We have taken quite a pounding over the previous few months, and it hasn’t helped anyone with having no crowds.
“Obviously, everyone would like to see it back to where it was pre-Covid with full crowds and the atmosphere and the spin-off it has for Cardiff and other cities and the country as a whole.
“We all want the same thing, and we have to make sure we make smart decisions based on the health and well-being of the community and the financial situation, and make the best possible decision for everybody.”