England World Cup winning centre Mike Tindall's chances of making the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand have been dealt a severe blow.
The Bath centre will miss the entire RBS 6 Nations Championship after being told he is likely to need surgery on his right foot, and he is not expected to play again until April.
A stress fracture had already ruled 26-year-old Tindall out of England's opening Six Nations games against Wales and France, but head coach Andy Robinson had hoped he might be fit for later matches in the tournament.
However, Tindall, England's vice-captain during their autumn Tests this season, is now poised to follow Will Greenwood and Richard Hill in sitting out the whole competition, while question marks remain about injured fly-half Jonny Wilkinson's Six Nations prospects.
'Tindall is having his foot operated on, and he will probably miss all of the Six Nations,' said Bath coach John Connolly.
'He will be out until early April - at the earliest.
'Mike could try to play, but [the foot] has separated, and it is important to get it 100%. There is nothing worse than trying to play at 85 or 90%.'
Bath hope Tindall will have an operation as soon as possible, thereby increasing his chances of returning before the regular Zurich Premiership season ends on April 30.