Rhys Priestland, Aaron Jarvis and Luke Charteris are ruled out of the entire tournament, while players like Alun-Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies and Dan Lydiate are also currently unavailable.
Howley though, delivered a positive update surrounding Jones today after he suffered a dislocated thumb playing for the Ospreys against Heineken Cup opponents Leicester 10 days ago.
"We are confident he will be available for selection for the Ireland game."
Jones (shoulder) and Lydiate (ankle) remain on course to possibly play a part later in the tournament, which Wales kick off against Ireland on Saturday week before facing France in Paris seven days later.
"Dan is looking to be probably available at the latter end of the championship," added Howley. "He is ahead in terms of his recuperation at the moment.
"He is ahead of schedule, but we are obviously mindful of workload. We will take that decision as, and when, we need to.
"Player welfare is so important, and we need to look after Dan and just not put him in for the sake of putting him in.
"If he's right, both physically and mentally, and he is available then he comes into our selection."
A huge fitness boost for Wales, though, will be the return of star prop Adam Jones, whom missed this season's entire autumn series that produced successive defeats against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
"We certainly missed Adam in the autumn series," Howley said.
"When you look at his influence in the world game, he is probably one of the best tightheads in world rugby. I am sure he will have a huge influence.
"The competition in our front-row and the experience we've got there, it can be a focal part of this Six Nations campaign."
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