Joe Worsley will miss England’s autumn internationals after damaging cruciate knee ligaments in Wasps’ Guinness Premiership defeat to Sale on Friday night.
Worsley will be sidelined for between four and six weeks and will also miss Wasps’ European Cup appointments against Edinburgh and defending champions Toulouse.
It is a massive blow for Worsley, who was looking forward to England’s November Tests against Australia, New Zealand and Samoa as the ideal way to move on from the disappointment of missing out on the British & Irish Lions tour.
"I’m sorry to be missing Wasps’ opening European Cup pool games and a number of internationals, but I am looking forward to getting back before Christmas," he said.
"I so wanted to prove people wrong after being overlooked by the Lions. I so wanted to play against New Zealand, probably the best team in the world at the moment."
England take on the Wallabies in four weeks but even if Worsley makes a swift recovery he is unlikely to be match fit enough to be considered for England selection.
Worsley was certain to start in the England back row alongside captain Martin Corry and Lewis Moody – but head coach Andy Robinson must now look for alternatives.
"This a disappointing blow for Joe and for England ahead of the Investec Challenge matches. Joe has been playing very well for his club and I wish him a speedy recovery," said Robinson.
One option could be a recall – ahead of schedule – for Lawrence Dallaglio, who is only two games into his comeback from a broken ankle.
Otherwise, James Forrester and Chris Jones are both already in Robinson’s 30-man squad and could win promotion to the starting XV.
Wasps were not expecting to have Dallaglio back in action so soon, so the blow of losing Worsley from the back row is not quite as painful as it might have been.
Co-captain John Hart could start at number eight with Dallaglio on the blind-side flank.
But it is still not good news given Wasps’ tough European draw and director of rugby Ian McGeechan said: "We are obviously disappointed to lose Joe when he has been playing so well.
"He has been a leading performer in the Wasps team that has made such a good start to the season. To go into Europe without him will be a blow."