Mathew Tait has become England’s latest injury casualty ahead of their Twickenham appointment with World Cup favourites New Zealand on November 5.
The Newcastle centre will miss Falcons’ European Challenge Cup clash against Brive in France this weekend. He only recently returned to action following early-season knee surgery.
Newcastle have described his injury as a minor thigh muscle tear, although they insist he will be fit for the All Blacks clash after a decision was taken not to risk him on Saturday.
England head coach Andy Robinson will be reassured by Falcons’ upbeat assessment, but it is another fitness scare during a difficult build-up that has already seen him lose the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Olly Barkley, Steve Borthwick and Stuart Abbott from his plans.
Tait is a red-hot favourite to start at outside centre against New Zealand, possibly partnering his Newcastle colleague Jamie Noon in midfield, although uncapped Gloucester prospect Anthony Allen is pushing hard for recognition.
Noon is rested for the trip to France, but 21-year-old Toby Flood – one of seven uncapped players named yesterday by Robinson in a 30-man squad ahead of the All Blacks encounter – starts at fly-half.
Bristol scrum-half Shaun Perry, meanwhile, has spoken of his delight at making Robinson’s squad.
Perry is on the verge of a first cap, despite making less than 30 Premiership appearances for his club, with Robinson facing a straight choice between the former welder and Gloucester’s Peter Richards to wear England’s number nine shirt.
"It is a great honour – you would not believe how pleased I am," said Perry.
"It is every kid’s dream to play for their country, and I am a step closer now. But I am taking nothing for granted, I am just going to get my head down and work as hard as I can.
"Nearly all the progress I’ve made is as a direct result of the work that Richard Hill (Bristol head coach) has done with me.
"He has put in hours of extra training with me, working on my passing, my kicking and my general management of a game. He has been awesome.
With Bristol top of the Premiership, and me being named in the England squad, it is all going amazingly well."