Exeter whore Luke Cowan-Dickie will miss at least the start of England’s Guinness Six Nations campaign due to an ankle injury.
Chiefs rugby director Rob Baxter described the injury as “relatively serious”, with the possibility that Cowan-Dickie would require surgery.
England kick off the Six Nations under new head coach Steve Borthwick against Scotland at Twickenham on February 4, before hosting Italy eight days later. It’s conceivable that Cowan-Dickie could be sidelined throughout the tournament.
Cowan-Dickie, who was injured during the second half of Exeter Gallagher’s Premiership win over Northampton, did not travel to South Africa with Exeter for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup tie against the Bulls.
“I believe he is meeting with the surgeon today and the surgeon will give us guidance,” said Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby.
“I think at this stage we have to say it’s relatively bad.
“I don’t want to be flippant and say it’s going to be eight weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks (he leaves).
“I think we’re evaluating it, but you won’t see him running in the next three or four weeks.”
Cowan-Dickie, who has won over 40 caps for England, is in his final season with Exeter before joining French champions Montpellier next season.
Baxter added: “If you look at the injury mechanism, it’s pretty awkward.
“He’ll end up half-punching through the gear, someone fell on the back of his legs, and he ends up with his ankles crossed and one foot twisted underneath him.
“He was very annoyed on Saturday night, as you can imagine. He was looking forward to coming here (South Africa), experiencing being here with the club and being involved in a big game.
“The Heineken Cup means a lot to him and the truth is he’s a really good guy and he really wants to make a big impact this season as he leaves. I think a lot of it really bothered him.
“Having said that, if there’s a guy who can come back on time or sooner after an injury, it’s usually Luke.
“I think he has a lot of season left, but we just want to get things rolling quickly so we can shorten his rehab a lot so he doesn’t miss too much more of the season.”
Meanwhile, Scotland’s Chiefs defender Stuart Hogg also missed the trip to Pretoria as he battles a heel problem.
“Stuart did a fitness test the Saturday before the game and still couldn’t run at high speed or couldn’t run any distance in his heel. It was still too painful,” Baxter said.
“While we’re away this week, he’s going to be running a sort of drug rehab program. As soon as his heel is comfortable enough, he will be declared fit again.
“It’s not like a ligament or something that will require surgery.”