Warren Gatland says Wales could have two captains at the World Cup after skipper Ken Owens was ruled out of the tournament.

Scarlets hooker Owens, capped 91 times, has failed to recover from a back injury ahead of the World Cup, which starts in September.

Gatland says it is possible 36-year-old Owens could feature in the later stages of the tournament if there was an injury at hooker, but he will not be named when the New Zealander announces his 33-man squad at the end of August.

Italy v Wales – Guinness Six Nations – Stadio OlimpicoWales captain Ken Owens has been ruled out of the World Cup with a back injury (David Davies/PA)

“Ken didn’t train at all with us (in recent weeks), his back has not recovered,” head coach Gatland said.

“He has not been able to do any of the training. It is the same injury but not as severe as before so he may need an operation on that.

“He wanted to reiterate he has not retired from rugby and he is hoping potentially he could be available later if we pick up injuries in the tournament.”

Asked about Owens’ successor, Gatland added: “Co-captaincy is a possibility. We did that with Ellis Jenkins and Cory Hill in 2018 and it worked well.

“It is something I have put out there potentially as an option, it is not guaranteed we will do that.

“We will put a leadership group together and we will tell the players. You look at the squad and I don’t think there are any guaranteed starting positions and players will get opportunities in the squad.

“It is looking at the team and picking the right person as captain. It is the support they are going to get or is it potentially co-captains that can share that role and responsibility?”

Outside-half Dan Biggar, who captained Wales in the 2022 Six Nations and the following summer tour to South Africa, and second-row forward Adam Beard are among the leading candidates to take the armband.

Possible younger options could be hooker Dewi Lake, 24, and 23-year-old flanker Jac Morgan.

Gatland chose Sam Warburton, then 22, to be Wales’ captain at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2011 – Pool D – Wales v Samoa – Waikato StadiumSam Warburton was named Wales’ captain at the 2011 World Cup at the age of 22 (David Davies/PA)

Asked if he would consider a young captain again, Gatland said: “Yes absolutely. We have time for that with the two camps (in Switzerland and Turkey) and seeing more of the rugby.

“We have been doing that more with players getting plenty of touches on the ball.

“We probably won’t name a captain or captains until we name the squad.”

Scarlets back-rower Josh Macleod (shoulder) and Cardiff prop Will Davies-King (foot) have both been released from the squad.

Taulupe Faletau will miss the first week of the Switzerland camp because of a calf injury.

Wales v Italy – NatWest 6 Nations – Principality StadiumTaulupe Faletau will miss the start of Wales’ pre-World Cup camp in Switzerland (David Davies/PA)

Alex Cuthbert and Owen Williams will miss the trip altogether but Gatland, who has called Ospreys hooker Sam Parry into a revised 47-man squad, is confident they will be fit for the Turkey trip.

Veteran trio Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb have all retired from Test rugby during a turbulent build-up to the World Cup.

Prop Rhys Carre was released from an initial 54-player training squad after he failed to hit individual performance targets, while lock Hill withdrew to pursue a club contract opportunity outside of Wales.

“They are different in a way,” Gatland said when asked how this group compared to previous squads.

“There are some young players that are a bit green, but even in a short of period of time we have seen how they have developed.

“They’re all sponges in terms of wanting to learn and wanting to get better. I see that as hugely positive.”