Jonny Wilkinson has resumed light training as he recovers from his latest injury problem.
England’s World Cup final matchwinner is recovering after suffering kidney damage during Newcastle’s Guinness Premiership victory over Bristol six weeks ago.
And while the Falcons will not put a date on his return, they believe it could be some time during this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship, which begins in early February.
The Newcastle fly-half has not played for England since the 2003 World Cup final, when his dramatic late drop-goal secured a 20-17 victory against Australia.
His England career stalled on 52 caps and 817 points, although he did feature for the 2005 British and Irish Lions against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
A succession of repeated injury troubles combined to effectively place his rugby career in cold storage, yet 27-year-old Wilkinson has never given up hope that one day he will return to the Test arena as an England player.
Falcons rugby director John Fletcher said: "Jonny is on the mend. He has had his four or five weeks of rest, took himself away for a holiday, and now he’s in the gym doing some light training.
"He will be back. We haven’t put a date on it and we aren’t going to do that, but realistically it may be some time during the Six Nations.
"We will get him back in the same sort of shape he was for the Bristol game, and he will be flying again.
"Jonny is very positive, as always. He is in a great frame of mind, and also in fantastic condition. He is feeling refreshed after a couple of weeks in the sun, and he is looking forward to starting up again."