FLANKER Darren Waters has been ruled out of action for six months – one of three injury hammer blows to hit Newport Gwent Dragons ahead of the new season.

He will be joined on the sidelines by centre Adam Hughes and wing Matthew Pewtner after they suffered injuries to their right hamstrings in last week’s pre-season friendly against London Irish.

Hughes, whose strain came in the last minute, is expected to be out for three to four weeks while Pewtner faces a second scan and could potentially be ruled out for six.

But it is the injury to Waters that is the most galling, especially as the former Pontypridd flanker’s pre-season form was set to earn him the start in the RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Zebre ahead of captain Lewis Evans. The 27-year-old, an ex-bricklayer who played his first season of professional rugby last term, ruptured his left knee ligaments at the end of the first half against Irish.

The initial prognosis was that it was nothing too serious but a scan revealed that his ACL had snapped, an injury estimated to mean at least six months on the sidelines.

It also leaves the Dragons with a severe shortage at openside.

Evans will now be backed up by Jevon Groves, a blindside who can also play lock, and director of rugby Robert Beale admits they may be forced into the transfer market.

“Firstly, we are devastated for Darren because he played very well in our warm-up games and was in pole position to start against Zebre,” he said.

“To have this happen is disastrous for Darren because he is desperate to prove that he is a quality professional player.

“It does leave us with something of a problem because we are running with a 38-man squad and Darren is an important part of that.

“We are sailing close to the wind and if we pick up any more injuries then we will have to go into the market place.

“The first place that we will look is the Premiership and our fixture against the Gwent Select (a 16-10 loss) shows that there is quality there.

“We know what we have got there and have used (Cross Keys captain) Rob Nash in the past and know all about his qualities.

“But we need to get our timing right in terms of recruitment and watching the first few weeks of action will be key to that.”

The Dragons already knew that they would be without wing Tonderai Chavhanga (knee), full-back Jamie Smith (leg) and scrum-half Joe Bedford (shoulder) against Zebre next Friday.

The trio are all back in training but are not expected to return to on-field action for another month.

However, flanker Evans, centre Ashley Smith and wing Will Harries are all back in training and in contention for the Pro12 opener.