The England first five Toby Flood looks certain to miss the first two games of the Six Nations rugby championship after suffering a knee injury.
Flood would have been a certain starter for England following the international retirement of Jonny Wilkinson but has been ruled out for up to six weeks after straining a ligament in last weekend's Premiership victory over Sale.
England begin the defence of their title away to Scotland on February the 4th and then visit Italy a week later.
Flood joins fellow Leicester and England team mates Manu Tuilagi and Louis Deacon on the sidelines.
Centre Tuilagi is also set to miss England's opening two matches while lock Deacon will probably miss the entire tournament after both suffered hamstring injuries last week.
Flood's absence is likely to open the door for 31-year-old Charlie Hodgson to make his first Six Nations start for six years and also increases the chances of Owen Farrell, his 20-year-old Saracens team mate and son of England assistant coach Andy, to get his first taste of international action.
England's caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster will name his elite player squad next week.