Billy Vunipola has broken his forearm, sparking a back-row crisis for England with the Six Nations looming.
It is a desperate blow for the Saracens No 8, 25, who had just only just returned from four-months out with a knee injury.
He went for scans on Sunday and will see a specialist later this week, but is almost certain to miss most – if not all – of the NatWest Six Nations, depending on the severity.
Billy Vunipola has broken his arm, sparking a back-row crisis for England ahead of Six Nations
He sustained the injury when he tackled Ospreys No 8 Rob McCusker in Saturday’s clash
He wrote on social media: ‘One of these days I might actually be able to play more than two games without breaking (no pun intended) I said it before and I’ll say again.
‘God has a plan for me, it’s just hard having to be patient!’
A horrid year for Vunipola began when he missed the best part of four months with a knee injury, suffered in the November 2016 match against Argentina.
He was rushed back into the England fold for the Ireland Six Nations Grand Slam decider last March – Jones later admitting that was a bad gamble.
Next big Billy required shoulder surgery and missed the Lions tour, set to be a crowning series for the No 8. And on his return he tore the meniscus in his knee in September, finally back in action just last Sunday against Wasps.
He was rushed back into England for the Ireland Six Nations Grand Slam decider last March
He has only just returned from a four-month absence due to a torn meniscus in his knee
So this latest injury is a bitter one for England, Saracens, and of course the man himself
So this latest injury is a bitter one for England, Saracens, and of course the man himself – so terribly unlucky.
When tackling Osprey Rob McCusker just before half-time Vunipola caught a blow on his right forearm. He was then seen wincing, visibly in immediate pain, and retreated out of the firing line.
That he then did not appear after the interval confirmed the bad news. Defence coach Alex Sanderson said on television that he and the club were ‘devastated’.
Jones now has a real problem for the Six Nations, which England begin on February 4 in Rome.
Nathan Hughes, Vunipola’s understudy, has a medial knee ligament issue that will see him miss at least the Italy, Wales and Scotland matches.
Exeter’s 23-year-old tyro Sam Simmonds could be the man to fill the void as England’s No 8
James Haskell would also have been in contention were it not for his red card against Quins
Jones believes his next option at the back of the scrum is Exeter’s 23-year-old tyro Sam Simmonds – but that would require England to change their style.
The Devonian is five stones lighter than both Vunipola and Hughes, so while an excellent option, will not provide the brutal ball-carrying power to smash England over the gain-line.
Someone who could fill that void is James Haskell – but the Wasps man has all but scuppered his chances of a return after crunching Jamie Roberts and receiving a red card in the defeat to Harlequins.
He will now be cited and – if guilty of a strike to the head – likely banned for six weeks. With those out it could well see Maro Itoje or Courtney Lawes move to England’s blindside flank – both can provide the required aggression.
Luckily for Jones Chris Robshaw’s back injury is a minor concern. He did not play against Wasps, complaining of stiffness after tackling banned Joe Marler in training, but his boss John Kingston was certain he would be fit for England.
Luckily for England boss Eddie Jones, Chris Robshaw’s back injury is just a minor concern