England head coach Eddie Jones has suffered another major injury blow less than two weeks before he names the squad tasked with retaining the Six Nations after Chris Robshaw was ruled out of the tournament.
Harlequins flanker Robshaw, a mainstay of England’s flawless resurgence under Jones last year, was due to have surgery on a shoulder problem on Monday and is expected to be absent for around three months.
It is the latest setback to dent Jones’s Six Nations plans, with centre Manu Tuilagi sidelined until next season and No8 Billy Vunipola likely to miss the start of the tournament.
The Australian also has concerns over captain Dylan Hartley, flanker James Haskell and props Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola. England host France at Twickenham in their opening match on 4 February.
“Chris Robshaw will undergo surgery on his left shoulder today to repair an injury sustained in the match against Worcester Warriors on New Year's Day,” Harlequins said. “He is expected to be out of competitive action for around 12 weeks.”
Robshaw, 30, recovered from the heartache of leading England’s dismal 2015 World Cup campaign to emerge as a driving force in the team’s renaissance under new boss Jones, playing in all but one of the team’s 13 successive victories last year.
Hartley faces a battle to prove he is match-fit as his six-week ban runs until 23 January, while Haskell lasted less than a minute of Wasps’ defeat to Leicester on Sunday and must undergo concussion assessment before he is cleared to play again.
Marler has a calf problem, although, Quins say he will be fit for the Six Nations, while Mako Vunipola is a doubt for the opening rounds with a knee injury.
Locks George Kruis and Joe Launchbury hope to recover from a broken cheekbone and calf problem respectively.
Maro Itoje, named breakthrough player of the year by World Rugby in November, could replace Robshaw at blindside.