England captain Owen Farrell is a doubt for the start of the Six Nations after Saracens revealed that he faces up to three months out because of ankle surgery.
Farrell has been given a timeline of between 10 to 12 weeks for his recovery, meaning he could miss the opener against Scotland on February 5 and possibly the round two trip to Rome eight days later due to a lack of match fitness.
The Saracens playmaker hobbled off late on in last Saturday's rout of Australia with the injury that rules him out of the climax to the autumn against South Africa.
It continues an unfortunate campaign for the 30-year-old after he was forced to self-isolate for the opener against Tonga only for his Covid sample to belatedly be confirmed as a false-positive.
In his absence, Courtney Lawes led England against the Islanders and he will also be at the helm for the Springboks’ visit to Twickenham on Saturday.
Marcus Smith is currently seen as first-choice fly-half and should Farrell’s recovery be delayed, Eddie Jones could recall the out-of-favour George Ford as cover.
The outlook on Jamie George’s knee damage is less severe with the Saracens hooker expected to be out for eight to 10 weeks, potentially making him available for the Murrayfield showdown.
George fought his way back into England’s squad after initially being left out by Jones and impressed against Tonga and Australia until injury struck.
Rookie Jamie Blamire will win his fifth cap on Saturday to plug the gap, but Luke Cowan-Dickie is due to return from an ankle issue next month and will be favourite to fill the number two jersey against Scotland.