Bath centre Olly Barkley has been ruled out of England’s opening autumn international against New Zealand after fracturing a bone in his right hand.
Barkley suffered the injury – a fracture to his second metacarpal – during Sunday’s Guinness Premiership defeat to Saracens.
Barkley had only just returned to action after a stray boot to the testicles forced him to miss two Bath games and two of England’s three pre-autumn training camps.
Bath confirmed today he will now miss the November 5 clash at Twickenham, forcing England head coach Andy Robinson to rip up yet another selection plan.
The 24-year-old may well have started against the All Blacks and Robinson said: "It is unfortunate for Olly and a real blow to Bath and England, especially after he missed last season’s RBS 6 Nations with a dislocated thumb.
"He is a key member of the squad and we wish him a quick recovery."
Robinson’s plans for the autumn series have been blighted by injuries. At the first Loughborough University training camp less than half of England’s elite squad were fit.
Barkley joins the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Steve Borthwick, Steve Thompson, James Simpson-Daniel and Iain Balshaw on the treatment table.
And it leaves Robinson with a major selection worry at inside centre, which has been a problem position since the retirement of Will Greenwood.
One scenario, and at present arguably the most likely, is for Robinson to start with Newcastle team-mates Jamie Noon and Mat Tait in the midfield.
Although Noon has played all his international rugby as an outside centre he often operates in the 12 role for Newcastle alongside Tait.
They started together against Wasps on Sunday, scoring a try apiece and switching positions during the game, before Noon departed to have eight stitches applied to a cut head.
Other suggested options for the inside centre role include two of the Premiership’s most exciting youngsters in Newcastle’s Toby Flood and Gloucester’s Anthony Allen.
The eventual centre partnership selected for the New Zealand game may well reflect any change in the dynamics of the England management team, following the arrival of Brian Ashton as attack coach and Rob Andrew as director of rugby.