France's new captain-in-waiting, lock Fabien Pelous, could be unable to wear the armband for the RBS 6 Nations opener against Ireland on February 14 because of an injury to his left knee.
The 30-year-old Stade Toulousain player strained his knee during his side's 37-20 Top 16 defeat to Biarritz on January 3 and he may not be fit enough to kick-off the new season with Bernard Laporte and company at the Stade de France.
Pelous is expected to be officially confirmed as France's new captain on February 3 when Laporte and team manager Jo Maso announce the 30-men squad ahead of the RBS 6 Nations and he has made clear he is eager to fill the boots of the retired Fabien Galthie.
"I don't want to rush anything," he said in Friday's edition of L'Equipe. "There is no imperative obligation for me to be back for our first match of the tournament.
"I see my career and my role with France in the long term. I am now mature enough to manage my career well."
Pelous has won 86 caps with France, including several as captain earlier in his career, and appears the ideal candidate to succeed Galthie who quit after the World Cup where Les Bleus finished at a disappointing fourth place.
In the meantime, Laporte may find it difficult to replace Pelous for the Ireland match as three more locks - Olivier Brouzet (shoulder), David Auradou (right calf) and Jerome Thion (Achilles) - are all doubtful for the clash.
"The injury list is getting longer and longer and this is becoming worrying," Laporte added.
"Jerome's case is the most delicate, he suffers from niggling tendinitis and his absence could be longer than planned. That makes a total of four second-row forwards injured.
"But we should not press the panic button, there are solutions with (Thibault) Privat or (Pascal) Pape for example."