WALES wing Mark Jones has suffered a cruel blow after going down with another knee injury which rules him out of the team to play France in the Six Nations Championship finale at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Jones damaged his left knee during last Saturday's game against Italy and had an operation last night.

The problem has been described as minor and not related to previous serious knee injuries he has suffered.

The Llanelli Scarlets winger from Builth Wells has spent the best part of the past two-and-a-half years on the sidelines with major knee problems. Twice he has been forced to endure complete reconstruction operations on both knees.

But he recovered each time and, showing remarkable determination, battled his way back to international level, losing nothing in speed or guile.

But his latest comeback didn't last long and after initially being doubtful for the Italy game with a rib injury then suffered yet more knee trouble.

Scarlets teammate Alix Popham, the Bassaleg-born former Newport number eight, was today on the brink of a call-up to the Wales back row against France.

He went on at blindside flanker in place of Colin Charvis against the Italians. "I'd prefer to play at number eight than six, but that's up to Scott Johnson," he said.

"I always like playing against big back rows and players who are up there, it's always good to knock them down," he said.

"Every player likes playing against the best or a player on top of his form, and all of the French back row are world class.

"Toulouse openside Yannick Nyanga is an awesome player and an athlete.

"I have come across him before. He's great to play against and we've had a few good battles. He's a top bloke off the pitch and a hard, physical guy on it which is what rugby is all about.

"Olivier Magne has been there and done it.

"I know they're dragging him off after 60 minutes, but he's still doing it."