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New Year return to action for Faletau.

WALES have been handed a worrying fitness update over Taulupe Faletau, with news the Lions No.8 won't be making his Bath comeback until early 2019.

The 28-year-old was expected to be back this month in time for Bath's Gallagher Premiership games over the Christmas period at Wasps and home to Leicester Tigers.

Faletau's return was supposed to give Bath some badly-needed festive cheer after being effectively knocked out of the European Champions Cup, at Leinster, over the weekend.

No.8 Faletau fractured his right forearm 10 weeks ago in their 39-24 defeat to Exeter Chiefs and underwent surgery.

The initial medical prognosis was an eight to 12-week spell on the sidelines but he's yet to be cleared by his surgeon to do any contact work.

And the Welsh linchpin went on social media to deliver the news he will be sidelined until January, even though he's been building up his fitness at Bath's training base at Farleigh House.

"Ten weeks down, not long to go," said the Tongan-born star. "Looking forward to getting back out there with the boys in the new year."

Faletau missed the start of the 2018 Six Nations because of a knee injury picked up in December and was sidelined for the opening three games against Scotland, England and Ireland.

And he's cutting it fine this time around with Wales opening the 2019 Six Nations with a trip to the Stade de France, in Paris, on Friday, February 1. They're already without knee injury victim Ellis Jenkins after having surgery on the injury picked up in the closing seconds of their autumn international finale against the Springboks.

Dragons back-rower Ross Moriarty would be the obvious choice to fill the No.8 shirt should Faletau fail to make the starting line-up in the French capital.

Meanwhile Faletau's Wales and Lions international teammate Leigh Halfpenny is set to make a welcome return to regional rugby this weekend, in the Scarlets' derby clash against the Ospreys. Halfpenny has been out of action with concussion. | More rugby: Pages 44&45

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 18, 2018
Words:341
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