WALES have suffered another injury hammer blow after lock Luke Charteris was ruled out for the rest of the season after rupturing knee ligaments.

The 29-year-old former Newport Gwent Dragons captain suffered the injury after half an hour in Perpignan’s Top 14 win against Montpellier at the Stade Aime Giral.

The French giants expect the second row to miss the rest of the campaign – ruling him out of contention for Wales’ defence of their Six Nations title and leaving his hopes of touring Australia with the British and Irish Lions in tatters.

The setback brings to an end a frustrating, injury-plagued 2012 for the Rodney Parade favourite.

An injury to his wrist suffered at last year’s World Cup and then a shoulder problem meant that he made just four appearances for the Dragons last season before heading over to Perpignan.

It also meant that Charteris – who came of age at the World Cup – was a fringe player as Wales won the grand slam, coming off the bench in the games against Italy and France.

He returned to the boiler house for the summer tour to Australia and featured in the autumn Test defeats to Samoa, New Zealand and Australia after missing the loss to Argentina in November while on club duty in France.

However, his absence when the Six Nations gets under way will leave a giant hole in Wales’ second row given that Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans – the pair that shone in last year’s tournament – are doubts for the opener against Ireland on February 2.

While Charteris endured a nightmare evening in Perpignan, his club and international colleague James Hook was shining. The Wales fly-half kicked 20 points in their 30-19 win.