Real Madrid star Gareth Bale ruled out of crunch Wales World Cup qualifying double-header

Gareth Bale is unquestionably Wales' most important playerGEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images

Wales' hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup qualification play-offs have been dealt a significant blow with the news that Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has been ruled out of their final two qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland due to injury.

Bale suffered a calf strain after scoring and registering an assist in Los Blancos' 3-1 Champions League defeat of Borussia Dortmund last week and subsequently missed the La Liga victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Manager Zinedine Zidane later confirmed that the decision was precautionary and that the 28-year-old, who he described as having discomfort and tightness, would still be available for international duty.

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However, several outlets reported on Tuesday morning that Bale, who joined up with the Welsh squad yesterday morning and attended the Football Association of Wales' (FAW) annual awards bash in the Vale of Glamorgan, will not be fit enough to feature during Friday's trip to Tbilisi or Ireland's visit to Cardiff three days later.

The FAW have now released an official statement to confirm Bale's absence following the results of a scan that took place following discussions with his club. One-cap Barnsley striker Tom Bradshaw has been called up as a replacement and will arrive later this afternoon.

To lose their most influential player for a double-header of such magnitude is an enormous setback for Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales, who have not qualified for a World Cup since 1958. Chris Coleman's second-place side, already without defenders James Collins and Jazz Richards, currently sit just one point ahead of Ireland - who host Moldova next - in Group D and five in front of Austria.

Leaders Serbia require one win from their last two meetings with Austria and Georgia to secure automatic qualification for next summer's tournament in Russia.

Real have dealt with a few injuries concerns of late, although striker Karim Benzema is expected to be fit to face Madrid rivals Getafe at Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez on 14 October after recovering a knee problem sustained against Levante last month.

Left-back duo Marcelo (hamstring) and Theo Hernandez (dislocated shoulder) could also return, while right-back Dani Carvajal is currently sidelined with a heart issue. Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic, meanwhile, is still dealing with a partial adductor tear.

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