Saracens powerhouse Billy Vunipola is set to miss England’s entire Six Nations campaign after X-rays confirmed he fractured his forearm during Saturday’s European Champions Cup clash with Ospreys.
The 25-year-old reeled away clutching his right wrist following a clash with Ospreys forward Rob McCusker in the latter stages of the first half and failed to reappear for the second period.
No timeframe has been given for when Vunipola may be ready to return to action, although initial suggestions have centred on him being sidelined for anything up to 10 weeks.
Such a prognosis would rule Vunipola out of the entire championship, which runs from 3 February to 18 March, with England starting their title defence with a showdown with Italy in Rome on 4 February.
It is a major setback for Vunipola, who missed the summer’s British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand due to a shoulder injury and had only just returned following knee surgery.
With Vunipola set to out and Nathan Hughes of Wasps likely to miss at least the start of the Six Nations due to medial ligament damage, Exeter’s Sam Simmonds could be the prime candidate to be England’s No8.