Jonathan Davies, the British and Irish Lions centre, appears firmly on course to play a part in Wales' RBS 6 Nations campaign.
The Scarlets man has not played since rupturing a pectoral muscle during Wales' defeat by South Africa more than two months ago and it had been thought that Davies would miss the opening three Six Nations games against Italy, Ireland and France.
However, Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, has named the 25-year-old in his squad ahead of the tournament. "We don't think that Jonathan is too far away," he said.
Loading article content
Davies has become one of Wales' most consistent and influential performers and it would be a huge boost for Gatland were he to be back playing ahead of schedule, although the Wales coach will also run the rule over captain Sam Warburton - who has been sidelined in recent weeks due to a shoulder injury. His Cardiff team-mate, Gethin Jenkins, is another injury doubt after going off during last Saturday's Heineken Cup defeat by Toulon and Ryan Jones has a hamstring problem.
They have also been included among a 32-man Six Nations squad, together with centre Jamie Roberts, who missed this season's autumn internationals because of injury.
The squad retains a sense of strength, though, since it contains 28 players who have won the Six Nations before, with Gatland opting for a split of 13 backs and 19 forwards. "We've picked a pretty experienced squad and kept it fairly tight at this stage," said Gatland, whose side's opening game is at home against Italy on February 1.
The head coach is also determined that Wales puts the politics "to one side" in pursuit of an unprecedented Six Nations title hat trick. The nations' rugby has entered into a period of instability due to an ongoing dispute between the Welsh Rugby Union and Wales' four professional regions.
"We know there are some politics going on at the moment but we will put that to one side, come together as a group and focus on the rugby and what we can control," said Gatland. "We have got an opportunity to create history and that is something we will focus on and something that will give us extra motivation."