JOE Allen's return to the Wales international side was short-lived, after he was forced off after just seven minutes of Wednesday's 3-1 World Cup qualifying defeat in Belgium.

The 31 year-old, who is a former pupil at Ysgol Preseli in Crymych, was making his long-awaited return after a 16 month absence from Wales through an Achilles injury.

He missed Saturday's 1-0 friendly win against Mexico, and was also ruled out of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, both at Cardiff City Stadium.

"We've lost Joe, which is a shame, as he is a big loss for us," said Wales' caretaker manager Robert Page, who is standing in for manager Ryan Giggs.

"He'll go back to his club, and they'll do more assessments, so they'll know exactly where they are with him with regards to timescale.

"It gives somebody else an opportunity to step up and do well [for Wales]."

Allen, who was raised in Narberth, had been withdrawn in the closing stages of Stoke's win over Derby the previous weekend with a tight calf.

After nine months on the sidelines in 2020 with a horrible Achilles tendon rupture, he had returned to playing for Stoke in December, playing a part in every Stoke match.

Allen had thought he would miss the European Championships through injury, but when the tournament was delayed due to the pandemic, he was hopeful of being involved..

Meanwhile Allen's absence is the latest in a series of fitness setbacks for Wales, who had already been hit by the withdrawals of Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Tottenham left-back Ben Davies (calf) and Luton centre-back Tom Lockyer (ankle) this week.

Wales were without defender James Lawrence, who started against Belgium, as the centre-back was unable to travel to Wales, due to Covid-19 restrictions in Germany, where he plays for club side St Pauli.

In midweek, Wales had threatened to cause another major upset against Belgium before succumbing to a 3-1 defeat to the world's number one-ranked side in their opening World Cup qualifier.

Wales took an unexpected early lead with their first attack as Connor Roberts and Gareth Bale combined for Harry Wilson to finish a fabulous team move.

Belgium responded swiftly and decisively as Kevin De Bruyne lashed in an equaliser, before Thorgan Hazard headed them in front.

Wales posed more of a threat in the second half, but Romelu Lukaku's penalty ultimately settled the game.

On Saturday, a much-changed Wales side marked Chris Gunter's 100th cap with a 1-0 friendly victory over Mexico.

Resting their first-choice players for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, Wales struck an early winning goal thanks to Kieffer Moore's nonchalant finish.