If the England coaches thought things could hardly get worse after the heavy injury fall-out from last weekend's brutal round of European Champions Cup matches, they could not have been more mistaken.
Owen Farrell, out of the starting line-up but still crucial to the fortunes of the national team, is not merely out of next week's Six Nations trip to Wales. He will miss the entire tournament.
Farrell went off in the opening quarter of Saracens' defeat at Clermont Auvergne on Sunday and returned home on crutches. Yesterday, medical staff decided he was suffering from a "high grade medial ligament strain" that will probably leave him incapacitated for a couple of months at least.
However quickly he recovers, it will not be fast enough for England coach Stuart Lancaster, who had been banking on his presence in what promises to be the most bitterly fought championship in years.
Attention now switches to centre Brad Barritt, who also suffered a medial ligament injury in Clermont-Ferrand.
Lancaster did not rule out the team's defensive kingpin - Barritt is officially "under treatment" - but the signs are not great, and if he joins his Saracens clubmate on the list of unavailables, England will cross the Severn Bridge without their most dependable back-foot operators.
As recently as a fortnight ago, the coaches were looking to pair Barritt with Northampton centre Luther Burrell in the belief that this combination would stand the best chance of stopping Welsh pair Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in their tracks.
There are also concerns over Bath inside-centre Kyle Eastmond, who aggravated a shoulder injury during his club's victory over Glasgow on Sunday.
If Burrell passes his concussion protocols and is cleared to play, he is likely to be selected - possibly alongside the in-form Jonathan Joseph of Bath or Gloucester playmaker Billy Twelvetrees.
The latter has not shown the best of himself for a while, yet in last season's Six Nations, he and Burrell were largely responsible for a startling expansion of England's attacking game.
Lancaster, who is also missing Manu Tuilagi, described Farrell's latest misfortune as "a real shame". (© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service