Lions hopeful Ben Youngs looks like spending even longer on the sidelines than first expected.
The England scrum-half injured his shoulder during the second Test against South Africa on June 16 and has since had surgery to correct the damage.
The initial diagnosis suggested a spell of between two and three months out of the game but his return date has now been pushed back by a further few weeks.
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill doesn’t expect his star No9 to be fit until the end of October at the earliest meaning Youngs with have next to no time to prove himself ahead of England’s autumn internationals against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
"Ben has had surgery and he is having holiday time at the minute, which is important," said Cockerill.
"He will miss the first rounds of the Heineken Cup (on the weekends of October 13 and 20), which is not ideal because you want your best players playing in the biggest games.
"When he is fit, he will be back on the field. It is typical that he will get fit and then we will lose him to the autumn internationals."
Youngs appeared to be back to near his best on England’s summer tour, with the 22-year-old scoring a brace of tries in the 36-27 defeat in Johannesburg before suffering the injury setback in the same fixture.
And with Harlequins’ Danny Care now back in favour after his international exile for drink driving, Youngs faces a real battle to be his country’s first-choice in the lead up to next year’s Lions tour.
Legendary Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan suggested that he would have picked Youngs for the last Lions tour had it been in 2010 rather than 2009 but his current injury situation will leave him with less time than he would like to press his claims for a squad place in Hong Kong and Australia.
Fellow Tiger Tom Croft should be back in action by the end of September, however, after he missed the summer Tests with a neck problem.