Leigh Halfpenny is set to give Warren Gatland a huge fitness boost ahead of the autumn internationals by returning to action for the first time in seven months.
The Lions and Wales idol hasn’t played a match since dislocating his right shoulder while making a try-stopping tackle on Luther Burrell against England at Twickenham in March.
Halfpenny hasn’t even set foot on the field of play for his new club Toulon because of a groin injury, but returned to training last week and could make his debut for the European champions at Toulouse a week on Sunday.
Halfpenny would then have further games against the Scarlets and Ulster in Europe’s Rugby Champions Cup, plus a French Championship clash with Grenoble to prove his fitness and form to Gatland in time for the Millennium Stadium November opener against Australia.
With the World Cup less than a year away, Gatland is unlikely to take any chances with his prolific points-scorer.
However, he will be monitoring Halfpenny’s Toulon performances closely, with Liam Williams, James Hook, Matthew Morgan, Rhys Patchell and Dragons youngster Hallam Amos alternatives for the number 15 jersey.
After Australia, Wales meet Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa in Cardiff.