Exeter wing Jack Nowell could miss England’s autumn Tests after suffering “a couple of fractures” around his cheek and eye socket.
Although Chiefs’ rugby director Rob Baxter does not want to put a definite time-frame on Nowell’s recovery at this stage, an absence of anything between four and eight weeks is likely.
Nowell, who has scored 11 tries in 23 Tests for England and toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions earlier this year, was hurt during Exeter’s Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle last weekend.
“Jack has got a couple of fractures around the top of his cheek and his eye socket,” Baxter told reporters at Sandy Park on Wednesday.
“At this stage, it is looking likely he will require an operation to settle it down. Until the surgeon moves in and does some more investigation, that’s about as far as I can tell you.
“Depending on when the operation happens, if it is definitely required, which is looking likely, and the severity of the injury, that will then decide whether there is no way back for the autumn internationals.
“It is still a little early to write him off for the whole of the autumn internationals, but that is something we will assess in the next week or so.”
England head coach Eddie Jones has already lost injured Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola and Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi from his autumn plans, and Nowell could now follow suit.
England play Argentina on November 11, followed by Australia and Samoa on successive weekends.
Baxter added: “It is always a blow when you lose good players, but that’s why you put a squad of people together.
“I am disappointed for him personally. He is in good form, starting this season really well for us, and obviously he wanted to have a couple of big rounds in the European Champions Cup to get himself right in the frame for England.
“That, unfortunately, has been damaged now with a pretty innocuous and unfortunate injury. Now, he is going to be held back for the next six to eight weeks.
“It is in and around his eye. We are not anticipating any issues with his vision but obviously there are optical nerves and facial nerves around that area that an operation will disturb. Those things will take a little while to settle as well.
“I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Until we have fully got right into the crux of what is going on there…we are still waiting to see the consultant.
“I think six weeks from the time of injury is a figure that we’ve had bandied around. There is the potential for it to be four weeks, there is the potential for it to be eight weeks.”